In Texas, a first-time driving while intoxicated offense, without any aggravating factors, is a Class B misdemeanor. Penalties upon a conviction include 3 to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
The level of charge, and subsequently the fine and term of incarceration you face, can increase substantially if you cause an accident while you were drunk. Likely, even if it is your first offense, you will be facing a felony DWI charge. The exact statute you will be prosecuted under, as well as the length of imprisonment and amount of the fine, depend on the nature of the offense.
Let us explore in more detail the charges and penalties you can face if you cause an accident when driving while intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs.
Causing an Accident Resulting in Injury to Another Person
One of the charges you can be facing is that for intoxication assault under Texas Penal Code § 49.07. An intoxication assault charge is levied when the accident results in serious bodily injury to anyone other than yourself.
Texas defines serious bodily injury as that which:
- Causes a substantial risk of death,
- Results in permanent disfigurement, or
- Causes long-term loss or impairment of a limb or organ.
Generally, intoxication assault is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000. However, if the accident caused traumatic brain injury or the victim was an on-duty firefighter or emergency medical services personnel, the offense is a second-degree felony, which carries a prison term of 2 to 20 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000. More severe penalties can be levied if the victim was an on-duty peace officer or judge. In that case, the offense is a first-degree felony, penalized by 5 to 99 years of imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Causing an Accident Resulting in Another's Death
Sadly, some car accidents can result in loss of life. If you were drunk and caused an accident in which someone died, you can be prosecuted under Texas Penal Code § 49.08.
Referred to as intoxication manslaughter, this offense is a second-degree felony. A conviction can result in 2 to 20 years of imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines. The offense can be elevated to a first-degree felony if the victim was an on-duty emergency medical personnel or firefighter.
Additionally, if someone is convicted of intoxication manslaughter, a second standard DWI offense is a third-degree felony. Typically, second violations are Class A misdemeanors.
Causing an Accident Resulting in Property Damage
The Texas Penal Code does not have a statute concerning DWIs resulting in property damage only. However, if you were driving while intoxicated and you damaged someone else's car, home, or other property, you could face a DWI charge as well as a reckless damage charge under Texas Penal Code § 28.04.
Reckless damage charges arise when you do something in which substantial risks are involved, and you are aware of them but engage in the conduct regardless. The offense is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500. You would face that penalty in addition to those for the DWI offense.
Causing an Accident and Leaving the Scene
In Texas, if you are involved in an accident, you must stop at or near the scene, exchange information with others involved, and render reasonable aid to any injured party. Failure to do so is what is commonly referred to as a hit and run.
The level of charges and penalties levied in a hit and run case include:
- Second-degree felony - leaving the scene of an accident resulting in another's death:
- 2 to 20 years in prison and/or
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Third-degree felony - leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury to another:
- 2 to 10 years in prison and/or
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Class B misdemeanor - leaving the scene of an accident resulting in property damage of $200 or more:
- Up to 180 days in jail and/or
- Up to $2,000 in fines
- Class C misdemeanor - leaving the scene of an accident resulting in property damage of less than $200:
- $500 fine
In addition to the punishments for a hit and run, you will also face penalties for driving while intoxicated.
Requirement to Submit to a Chemical Test
When an officer arrests someone on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, they will ask the driver to take a chemical test. The test is used to determine whether the individual has alcohol and/or drugs in their system. In a standard DWI matter, drivers can refuse to participate, and no specimen will be taken.
If you are in a DWI-related accident, the officer will request that you submit to a chemical test. However, if you refuse, the officer will get a search warrant ordering you to provide a specimen.
The officer can require that you take the chemical test when they reasonably believe that:
- You were driving under the influence when you caused the accident, and either
- Someone has or will die as a result, or
- Someone suffered serious bodily injury as a result.
If you have been accused of causing an accident while intoxicated, retain the services of a dedicated and aggressive DWI attorney in Dallas. Call Deandra Grant Law at (214) 225-7117 or submit an online contact form today.