Motor vehicles are there for the purpose of getting you from one place to another place. Unfortunately, accidents do occur. But when those accidents occur because of one driver's intoxication or recklessness, the motor vehicle can legally be defined as a weapon. If that happens, then subsequent charges can be much more severe than what they would have been but for the recklessness.
If you have been charged with reckless driving that resulted in serious bodily injury, aggravated assault, intoxication assault, or other similar charge, then you require an experienced criminal defense trial lawyer. At Doug Murphy Law Firm, experience is combined with legal insight and a proven reputation to take on complex criminal matters. Doug Murphy prepares each case with the intention to go to trial, if that's the only way to make sure your rights and freedom are upheld. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm today to discuss your case.
What is Vehicular Assault in Texas?
There is no offense specifically named vehicular assault in Texas. It is usually associated more with either intoxication assault or aggravated assault committed by use of a vehicle.
Intoxication Assault in Texas
If you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and were in an accident, you could be charged with more than just a DWI, you could be charged with intoxication assault if someone sustained serious bodily injuries. According to Texas Penal Code § 49.07, in part, a
person commits an offense if the person, by accident or mistake, while operating a … motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another….
According to Texas Penal Code § 1.07(a)(46), serious bodily injury means
bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
If you are convicted of intoxication assault, you could face a third degree felony that carries with it a sentence of two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Aggravated Assault in Texas
If you were driving a motor vehicle and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused either (1) serious bodily injury to another person; or (2) bodily injury with a deadly weapon (e.g., firearm), then you have committed aggravated assault. In the first instance, the offense is a second degree felony, and in the second instance, it is a first degree felony. A second degree felony carries with it a sentence of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Reckless Driving & Serious Bodily Injury
Vehicular assault is most often associated with reckless driving that results in serious bodily injury to another person. Reckless driving on its own is a misdemeanor, and is defined by Texas Transp. Code Ann. § 545.401 as an offense that is committed when a “person drives a vehicle in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Unlike intoxication assault, the law applies to some private properties where the general public is invited, such as parking lots or shopping centers.
A driver shows reckless or careless disregard for others if, for example, he or she, in any combination the following:
- Uses excessive or dangerous speed
- Runs stop signs or red lights
- Fails - recklessly or intentionally - to yield the right-of-way to other drivers and pedestrians
- Drives while intoxicated (DWI)
- Evades law enforcement
- Passes over a double yellow line on a two-lane highway
- Races other vehicles
- Texts and drives
- Passes a stopped school bus
- Drives in such a way that he or she fails to maintain control of the vehicle.
Vehicular Assault and Possible Defenses
Vehicular assault can be the combination of different acts while using your motor vehicle and through those acts and use of the vehicle, another person is seriously injured. Because there may be nuances and lack of specificity when defending vehicular assault cases, only an experienced attorney will have the know-how and resources for a proper defense. In such cases, a defense strategy must be designed that maximizes your chances of acquittal. You should consider the following when determining who to choose as your attorney.
Challenging Blood Tests
If your case involves alcohol and there was an accident, then the police will require that you provide either a breath or blood sample. In most accident-related cases, the odds are the police will want a blood sample. Blood tests can be challenged, and most of the time, these challenges come down to (1) the way the blood sample was handled; and (2) the interpretation or reading of the chromatograph.
To obtain a blood sample, a warrant is required if you do not give consent. If blood is drawn without consent or a warrant, the test results can be suppressed. Oftentimes, too, the handling of the blood sample is questioned. A blood sample goes through a chain of custody, and if someone inadvertently and wrongly labels a sample or causes the contamination of the sample in some way, then -- again -- the results can be suppressed. Finally, the results, or the report of the results, is a complicated piece of analysis and graphs, which many people, attorneys alike, are unable to accurately interpret. With experience and a thorough understanding, a capable attorney will be able to read the report and identify any problems in order to properly challenge the blood test.
According to the Texas Penal Code § 6.04(a), a “person is criminally responsible if the result would not have occurred but for his conduct, operating either alone or concurrently with another cause, unless the concurrent cause was clearly sufficient to produce the result and the conduct of the actor clearly insufficient.” To prove vehicular assault, the State will be required to prove either intoxication, recklessness, or intention. Minus any of these three qualifiers, the State cannot prove its case.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will attack the elements of the case and cause doubt that any of the three elements were present. Intoxication is factual evidence, and your attorney will challenge any evidence that indicates you were intoxicated. Recklessness is also factual evidence, and your attorney will provide evidence that counters the recklessness charge. For instance, you may have been negligent -- we all are from time to time on the road, and unfortunately our negligence causes accidents -- but negligence is not enough to prove aggravated assault. An experienced attorney will know how to proceed with challenges to causation associated with the specific charges against you.
Litigating Motions to Suppress, Exclude, or Dismiss
Part of the process of challenging blood tests, breath tests, causation, constitutional challenges, among other possible challenges, is the use of pleadings, specifically: motions to suppress, exclude or dismiss. When used properly with persuasive support, these motions can win the case for you.
Motion to Suppress
A motion to suppress is used to exclude evidence from trial. This motion is most often used at the beginning to middle stages of the process. A hearing will be heard when attorney argues for the exclusion of the evidence. If you win the motion, the State may no longer have a case against you, or its case may have been drastically weakened to provide little reason to continue efforts against you. The State's next move will depend on what and how important the suppressed evidence was to its case.
Motion to Exclude
A motion to exclude is also known as a Motion in Limine. These kinds of motions ask the court to rule on the admissibility of certain evidence before it goes in front of the jury. Generally, these motions are to exclude evidence, but they can also be used to request inclusion of evidence. Motions in Limine are filed at the beginning, and sometimes during, trial. In your case, your attorney will want to exclude any evidence that is prejudicial to your case.
Motion to Dismiss
If evidence is suppressed successfully, your attorney may be able to file a motion to dismiss. These motions are a formal request for a court to dismiss your case. If the State lacks the evidence necessary to convict, the State may even file the motion to dismiss.
If used strategically, these pleadings can be used successfully to move the court to act in your favor. It will require timing and memoranda that persuasively and substantively argues the reasons for the motion. Experience is key to this end. At Doug Murphy Law, our reputation is supported by extensive experience.
Board-Certified Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston, Texas
Vehicular assault offenses require a strong, effective defense by a criminal defense lawyer who possesses the requisite knowledge and experience investigating and defending. If you or a loved one has been suspected of these types of vehicular assaults, contact Doug Murphy Law Firm today. We devote our resources and capabilities to defend our clients' rights.
Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board certified criminal defense lawyer and a Board-certified DWI lawyer who fights on behalf of his clients and give back to the legal community by teaching other attorneys how to do the same. Contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today to discuss the circumstances of your case.