DWI Accidents in Texas: Offenses and Penalties
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is one of the most prevalent offenses in the State of Texas. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, around 80 to 90 thousand cases of DWI happen each year. This is an alarming statistic, considering the threat of DWI to the safety and well-being of the general public.
As mandated by Texas Laws, DWI can be considered a misdemeanor under some circumstances resulting in driver’s license suspension and fines. However, factors like the presence of illegal drugs, guns, serious injury, damage to property, and death can elevate the charges against the driver significantly.
The penalties for a DWI are determined by the law and typically vary based on the number of prior convictions. However, Texas state laws incorporate aggravating elements that can escalate the standard consequences of a DWI conviction.
How can Law Enforcement Charge an Individual with a DWI?
Law enforcement employs various methods to determine whether a Texas driver is driving under the influence of substances. To detect signs of alcohol consumption, officers frequently conduct breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests. If law enforcement finds your BAC level to be at least 0.8%, they can charge you with a DWI.
There are also tests like Field Sobriety Tests, Drug Recognition Evaluation, and Blood or Urine Tests to detect drug intoxication.
What Happens When You Get into a DWI Accident?
DWI accident charges can be divided into four types which are injury, property damage, death, and hit and run. Although each of these has different penalties, a DWI accident can earn you a felony DWI charge.
Accident Resulting to Injury
Under Texas Penal Code § 49.07, you may be charged with intoxication assault, which occurs when an accident caused by intoxication results in serious bodily injury to another individual. Texas laws defines serious bodily injury as an injury that involves a significant risk of death, permanent physical defacement, long-term physical disability.
Intoxication assault is typically considered a third-degree felony, carrying a potential sentence of 2 to 10 years in jail time and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
However, if the accident caused a traumatic brain injury or the victim was on-duty firefighter or emergency medical services personnel, the offense is elevated to a second-degree felony.
This results in a prison term of 2 to 20 years and a fine not exceeding $10,000. In more severe cases where the victim was an on-duty peace officer or judge, the offense is classified as a first-degree felony. This entails a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 99 years and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Accident Resulting to Property Damage
There is no specific statute in the Texas Penal Code that addresses DWIs resulting in property damage alone. However, if you were driving while intoxicated and caused damage to someone else’s property, you could be charged with both a DWI and a reckless damage offense.
Reckless damage charges apply when you knowingly take part in a risky activity and still go ahead with it. This offense can result in a fine of up to $500 and authorities will be considered a Class C misdemeanor. Besides the DWI penalties, you would also have to pay this fine for the reckless damage charge.
Accident Resulting to Death
According to Texas Penal Code § 49.08, if you are intoxicated and cause a fatal accident, authorities may prosecute you for intoxication manslaughter.
Intoxication manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony in the State of Texas. If convicted, the sentence can range from 2 to 20 years of imprisonment, along with fines of up to $10,000. If the victim is an on-duty medical worker or firefighter, the offense becomes a more serious crime with harsher punishments.
Moreover, if authorities find someone guilty of intoxication manslaughter, the subsequent standard DWI offense becomes a third-degree felony. In this circumstance, the penalties for second DWI violations are more severe than the usual Class A misdemeanors.
What Happens When You Flee the Scene of an Accident?
If you are involved in an accident in Texas, it is mandated by law that you stop at or near the scene. You are also mandated by law to share information with law enforcement authorities. Additionally, you have an obligation to provide assistance to any injured individuals. Failing to do so is commonly known as a hit-and-run.
The charges and penalties for hit-and-run cases are as follows:
Leaving an accident where someone dies is a serious crime. It is considered a second-degree felony charge. Committing this crime can result in 2 to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the accident leads to serious bodily injury to another person, leaving the scene becomes a third-degree felony. It carries a sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.
It can be regarded as a Class B misdemeanor if you leave the scene of an accident that caused property damage of $200 or more. There are also potential penalties of up to 180 days in jail and/or fines of up to $2,000.
For accidents resulting in property damage of less than $200, the offense is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine.
In addition to the penalties for a hit and run, you will also be penalized for driving under the influence of alcohol. In addition to the consequences for a hit and run, you will also incur sanctions for driving under the influence.
Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!
If you are facing deadly conduct criminal charges, it’s crucial to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. They can provide vital legal advice, representation, and guidance throughout the legal process. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can also communicate with the prosecution on your behalf. They can also advocate for your rights during court proceedings.
Navigating the criminal justice system can be scary and confusing. Having a skilled defense lawyer make all the difference in improving your case’s outcome. They will help you understand the legal process, outline your options, and provide support every step of the way. Additionally, they will review evidence, prepare witness statements, and investigate any mitigating circumstances on your behalf.