Texas law takes DWI very seriously. Thousands of Americans die each year at the hands of a driver who was intoxicated while they were behind the wheel. Many more are injured.
If you were involved in an accident that hurt someone else, you might find yourself facing these charges. When intoxication results in serious bodily injuries penalties and charges become much more serious.
This is because intoxication assault is a felony in the state of Texas. Penalties include more than just probation, fines, and the embarrassment of walking into court to plead your case.
That said, an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer can help you develop the right defense strategy to demonstrate that your actions did not directly cause another person’s injuries. Learn more here.
First Things First: What Is Intoxication Assault?
Before you can build a successful defense strategy, you’ll have to understand the charges against you. Here’s how Texas law defines intoxication assault:
“A person commits an offense if the person, by accident or mistake while operating an aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated, or while operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another.”
Already, you can see a few things that will help you build a better defense strategy.
- Claiming that you were negligent or did not intend to hurt anyone doesn’t count as a solid defense.
- Intoxication assault doesn’t just happen behind the wheel of a car.
- Prosecutors will have to prove that your actions resulted in serious bodily injury.
What Is Serious Bodily Injury?
Texas law defines “serious bodily injury” as “injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
Not all injuries qualify as a serious bodily injury. A small fracture, for example, may only be considered “bodily injury.” You can’t be convicted for intoxication assault if the victim’s injuries did not leave them impaired.
Penalties for Intoxication Assault in Texas
If driving while intoxicated did result in a victim’s serious bodily injuries, you could be convicted. Intoxication assault is a felony of the third degree in Texas. Penalties include 2-10 years behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines.
Furthermore, if the victim dies in a car accident, you may face more serious charges. Intoxication manslaughter is a felony of the second degree in the state of Texas.
Collect and Document Everything to Build a Solid Defense
Prosecutors will have to prove three things in order to put you behind bars:
- You were intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, etc.
- Intoxication was a direct cause of the victim’s injuries
- The victim suffered from serious bodily injury
Prosecutors will gather all the evidence that they can to support these claims. You will have to gather more evidence that refutes them or contradicts the prosecution’s argument.
The more information that you provide to your lawyer, the easier it will be to determine which strategies work in your favor.
Write down as much as you can from the incident. Who was in the car with you? When did the accident occur? What were you doing before the accident? Provide thorough details. The medication that you took or the things you observed about the victim may hold the key to a strong defense strategy.
Common Defense Strategies Against Intoxication Assault Charges
There are many ways to approach this kind of charge. Depending on the circumstances, you and your lawyer could argue:
- Improper testing or handling of tests influenced the results of the test
- Prescription medication influenced the results of the test
- Other factors caused or influenced the victim’s injuries
- The victim’s injuries are not considered “serious bodily injury”
The list goes on and on.
Be On Your Best Behavior
In the meantime, keep a low profile. Stay out of trouble. Evidence of anything to the contrary may be used against you in court. If there is any question as to whether you drove while intoxicated again, the uphill climb ahead of you will be even steeper.
Take Action Sooner Rather Than Later
Even if you have already been charged with intoxication assault, you may not know the extent of the victim’s injuries. Injuries that start as “bodily injury” could turn into serious bodily injury down the road.
Collect the right documents and reach out to a Texas criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you wait, documentation may get lost and you will have less time to build a strategy that can get you out of serious penalties.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.