Charged with Intoxication Assault in Texas? Here are Your Next Steps
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.
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”
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.
Charged with Intoxication Assault in Fort Worth or Tarrant County?
While judges and prosecutors take all alcohol-related driving offenses seriously, they are especially aggressive about prosecuting cases where a DWI causes injury to another person in an auto accident. When a driver who is impaired while driving causes a collision that results in serious injury to another, the driver may be charged with Intoxication Assault under Texas Penal Code §49.07.
Because serious injuries can create enormous physical, emotional and financial hardships for an injury victim and the victim’s family, prosecutors are particularly aggressive and judges often are inclined to impose tough sentences in Texas intoxication assault cases.
Intoxication Assault & Defenses
Texas Penal Code §49.07 provides in pertinent 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.
Challenging Intoxication (Attacking the Blood Test Results)
If a collision occurs where one of those involved in the crash suffers serious injury, law enforcement officers will typically take blood samples from the driver(s) in the crash. The lab work and blood sample must be carefully analyzed to uncover potential errors or sloppy procedures that may result in contamination of the sample or otherwise compromise the accuracy of the test result.
Common types of mistakes that undermine the reliability of the blood test may include:
- Contamination from alcohol used to clean the injection site
- Failure to properly mix the blood sample with preservative and anticoagulant
- Test not conducted by a trained qualified professional
- Blood sample handled improperly or exposed to heat
- Lack of proper sanitation standards in the lab
- Improperly functioning lab equipment
- Mislabeled blood sample
While this is hardly a comprehensive list of all ways that blood testing can be challenged, our experienced Fort Worth intoxication assault attorney carefully analyze the test results, procedures, chain of custody and lab procedures to establish that the DWI test results are unreliable. If there is not sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you were committing DWI, you cannot be convicted of intoxication assault in Texas.
There are two aspects of causation that are relevant in defending against charges based on injuries caused in a DWI accident. The first type of causation concerns the driving conduct that led to the collision. Even if you were involved in a crash while you were DWI, this does not necessarily mean that you caused the car crash.
Our DWI defense attorney typically works closely with accident reconstruction experts to determine if another party’s driving or actions actually caused the collision. The other causation issue involves whether the collision was what caused the complainant’s injuries. Even if the injuries were not caused by the crash, these types of collisions also routinely lead to a civil lawsuit for damages which may motivate the injured party to distort the facts about the source and/or severity of injury. We use medical experts to analyze the facts, circumstances and medical records of the other party to address this issue.
No Serious Bodily Injury
Many people make the mistake of presuming that they will not be charged for intoxication assault because they are not arrested at the scene of the collision, and the driver in the other vehicle does not manifest any obvious injuries at the scene. If you find that you are in this situation, you should seek immediate legal advice because the other driver might well “discover” that he or she has suffered a serious bodily injury at some subsequence point in time.
For purposes of this section of the Texas Penal Code, serious bodily injury is defined as any personal injury that creates a substantial risk of death, significant permanent disfigurement or long-term impairment or loss of bodily functions or organs. While this means that a simple bruises or scratches are not sufficient, the injury victim might complain of other types of injuries at a later time that can result in a charge of intoxication assault if your blood test reveals that you were driving while intoxicated.
If you have been arrested for a DWI after an accident that results in serious bodily injury to another person, you may be charged with the third degree felony of intoxication assault. This type of offense carries a sentence of 2 to 10 years in Texas State Prison, 160 to 600 hours of community service and a fine up to $10,000. If you have no prior felony convictions, our experienced Forth Worth Intoxication Assault Attorney might be able to seek probation.
Intoxication Assault vs. Involuntary Manslaughter
Alcohol is an inebriant and, unfortunately, it can lead to lapses of character and judgment. It is not uncommon for someone to involuntarily commit a crime while intoxicated.
A man in Texas was charged for intoxication assault for assaulting another male in a bar while under the influence, for instance. The assaulted victim died from his injuries.
As a result, the offender had his charges upgraded to involuntary manslaughter.
There is a fine line between intoxication assault and involuntary manslaughter in the state of Texas. Although they are closely related, the severity of both the act and penalties are significantly different.
The Texas Penal Code
The Texas Penal Code defines the two acts as intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter. The key elements for each crime are as follows:
A person commits intoxication assault if, whether by accident or mistake, they commit the following:
- A person operates an aircraft, watercraft, amusement ride, or operates a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated and, as a result of this intoxication, causes grievous bodily harm to another; or
- A person assembles a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated and as a result of the intoxicated assembly, causes grievous bodily harm to another
Grievous bodily harm is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or loss of function to any body part or organ.
Intoxication assault is a third-degree felony and punishable by 2-10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
A person commits intoxication manslaughter under the following criteria:
- If a person operates an aircraft, watercraft, amusement ride, a motor vehicle in a public place, or assembles a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated, and as a result of this intoxication, causes the death of another.
- If a person is intoxicated and as a result, causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
Intoxication Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, which can carry double the prison term of a third-degree felony conviction (plus the fine).
The Fine Line in Texas
As shown by the legislation above, there is a fine line between intoxication assault and involuntary manslaughter in Texas. The key difference between both charges is whether or not a death was involved.
Whether the Crime Involved a Death
Intoxication assault applies only to cases where there is serious injury but not to cases where there is death. If there is a death involved as a result of intoxication, then the charges become much more serious.
An Experienced Texas Defense Attorney Can Help
While intoxication by itself is not a valid defense in these types of situations, an attorney who specializes in intoxication and intoxication assault laws can assist in making sense of what charges and defenses may be applicable to your case.
Sometimes a defense strategy is less about disputing a crime occurred, and more about whether a mistake has been made in the initial accusation, or at some point during the procedural process.
Intoxication laws and legislation can be dense and difficult to grasp, but it is important to understand the nuances of intoxication offenses because the penalties they carry can be significantly different.
When you retain one of our Fort Worth intoxication assault lawyers, we work diligently to defend your future from the time we are retained which might include filing motions to suppress evidence, seeking to exclude testimony and requesting dismissal of the charges. If your future is clouded by the specter of criminal charges of Intoxication Assault in Fort Worth, you need a team of Fort Worth DWI attorney to defend your rights. Call the Fulgham Law Firm P.C. at 817-886-3078 to schedule a free confidential consultation with a former prosecutor and experienced Fort Worth DWI lawyer.
Call us right now to get help.
We’ve helped hundreds of people in Texas and we can help you too. We’ll set you up with a free conversation with Mr. Fulgham which will help you know what to do next. The Fulgham Law Firm serves Fort Worth and Tarrant county areas.
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.