It’s well understood that drivers should never get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, yet despite our understanding of the potential consequences, it happens all the time. In fact, there’s an alcohol-related accident on Texas roads every twenty minutes, many of which leave at least some of the individuals involved with serious injuries. What many don’t realize, however, is that when a driver injures someone else while impaired – in other words, in the course of committing a DWI – in Texas, they are also guilty of another crime: intoxication assault.
Injury Meets Intoxication
Intoxication assault is a particular framing of DWI with serious bodily injury that is used in Texas, and as it’s framed, intoxication assault is a felony in the third degree. Along with intoxication manslaughter, this is considered a major crime, punishable by two to ten years imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. This is the sort of crime that has a ripple effect for all of the parties involved, leading to the permanent disenfranchisement of the intoxicated driver, and potentially leaving the victim permanently disabled.
Crime And Consequences
Many people are surprised to hear that intoxication assault is such a serious crime since it is an accident, although an accident that occurs in the commission of a crime. When we consider the severity of the injuries that victims may suffer, however, the reality of the crime becomes evident. Among the most common injuries that car accident victims suffer, according to the personal injury law firm Michael P. Fleming & Associates, are concussions and traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, internal injuries, and burns and cuts that can leave lasting scars. These individuals deserve justice, and that demands treating accidents stemming from a DWI as the serious criminal acts that they are.
Answers Beyond Insurance
Another reason that people tend to underestimate the severity of DWI with serious bodily injury is that we assume most injuries are dealt with through insurance and that criminal action is exceptional. This may be the case with injuries that aren’t associated with DWI, but once intoxication comes into play, the calculus changes. In order to be able to pursue appropriate criminal action, however, accident victims should always exchange information and call police to the scene right away. Blood alcohol measurements, in particular, can be hard to measure, especially in the field, but it will impact what kind of case victims can bring and the punishment that an individual charged with intoxication assault will face.
While intoxication assault is typically prosecuted as a third-degree felony, it can also be a first- or second-degree felony in certain enhanced cases. Under the Texas penal code, these exceptional cases focus on firefighters, police officers, judges, and emergency workers who are injured in the course of their work – and first-degree felonies can be punishable by life imprisonment. If more people knew that having a few drinks before they get behind the wheel could be the end of their freedom forever, they might think more carefully and call a rideshare instead.
There’s never an excuse to drink and drive, but if nothing else will stop poor actions on our roads, maybe greater awareness of the criminal consequences of a drunk driving accident will. After all, drunk drivers aren’t just risking their own safety or an expensive ticket and a fine, but potentially putting their freedom on the line for years to come.