Oct 1, 2013

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Part 6: DWI Related Accidents

According to crash report data compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Texas leads the nation in DWI fatalities, and although drunk driving accidents account for only about 4% of traffic accidents statewide, TxDOT reports that DWI accidents were responsible for 1,099 deaths making them the leading cause of death on Texas roadways.
According to the same statistics Harris County led the state in DWI Accidents, totaling more than 2,809 reported alcohol-related crashes in 2012. Houston alone had a total of 1,662 reported drunk driving accidents and 94 fatalities in 2012.

In Texas, anyone who causes an auto accident while driving while intoxicated (DWI) is facing very serious criminal charges. Convictions will mean felony charges and may result in 10 to 20 years in state prison if the accident resulted in serious injury or death to another passenger or driver.
The two specific charges involved with vehicle accidents (including watercraft, aircraft and amusement rides) that involve impaired drivers are Intoxication Assault and Intoxication Manslaughter.

Intoxication Assault 
Texas Penal Code 49.07 states that 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. Serious Bodily Injury refers to any injury that creates a substantial risk of death, causes serious permanent disfigurement or causes "protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ."
Intoxication Assault is a third degree felony and punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison, fines of up to $10,000 and up to 600 hours of community service.
Texas law also requires any repeat intoxicated assault offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their primary vehicle: you are required to blow into this device before you can start your car, and if it detects alcohol the vehicle will not start. You will not be allowed to drive any vehicle that is not equipped with this device.
If you are charged with Intoxication Assault, the prosecution must only show beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated and caused serious bodily injury to another person; they do not need to provide any proof that you intended to hurt another person. Even though the other parties injuries could have been the result of an accident or mistake, you can still be charged with this serious offense.

Intoxication Manslaughter is a second degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in state prison, fines of up to $10,000 and up to 800 hours of community service.
Intoxication Manslaughter differs from regular Manslaughter or Vehicular Manslaughter charges, which require some evidence of a reckless act or reckless driving: by the mere act of operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated the law automatically presumes that you are acting in a reckless manner.
However, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's intoxication was the cause of the other person’s death.

Intoxicated Assault and Intoxicated Manslaughter are extremely serious charges. If you have been in an accident and have been charged with impaired driving, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact Parnham & McWilliams today at (713) 224-3967 or visit www.parnhamandmcwilliams.com for more information.

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