It may seem a bit unusual, but it does happen. A few months ago in Dakota County, Nebraska, a head-on collision sent at least two people to the hospital, one of which was the driver of one of the two vehicles. By the time law enforcement completed its investigation, both drivers had been charged with DWI.
The driver who was hospitalized refused a preliminary breath test; her BAC was found over the legal limit only after a warrant was issued to draw her blood. Her husband, a passenger in the vehicle who happened to be a county deputy, was also hospitalized and required surgery for his injuries. The other driver submitted to sobriety testing at the scene and was also found over the limit.
This story opens up a number of questions. What are the ramifications when both drivers in an accident are charged with DWI? Does that situation have any effect on the charges of either party? What if people are injured in the crash? Who is held responsible?
How the Law Handles Dual DWIs
In the eyes of Texas law, each driver has a legal responsibility to obey the law regardless of other drivers. If law enforcement suspects DWI in an accident and prosecutors decide to press charges, it has no bearing on the defendant whether the other driver was drinking or not. In other words, the alleged crimes of DWI do not cancel each other out in any way. If there is personal injury or damage involved, the two DWI charges might have an impact on how any civil charges are brought. But from the criminal justice standpoint, the charges are the charges.
Where things might get a bit murky is when there are injuries involved. When one driver is DWI in an injury accident, it's a fairly straightforward matter for prosecutors to add intoxication assault to the driver currently charged with DWI. But when both drivers in an injury accident are charged, intoxication assault becomes more difficult to prove. After all, theoretically speaking, if both drivers were drinking, the actions of either one could have caused the injury. It may require many hours of forensic investigation of the damage and the accident scene before law enforcement figures out whom to charge with the additional crime.
From a criminal defense standpoint, the devil is in the details, so to speak. A defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty, and proving guilt for intoxicated assault can be very challenging for prosecutors if more than one DWI driver was involved. Even so, you still want to hire a skilled attorney who can conduct a thorough investigation and who can make sure that any unfair or provable charges do not stick.