You may think drunk driving is not that big of a deal. But if you injure—or kill—someone while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you are likely to face felony criminal charges. Under Texas law, both “intoxication assault” and “intoxication manslaughter” are criminal offenses separate and apart from DUI/DWI.
If you operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated and “by reason of intoxication” cause “serious bodily injury” to another person, that is considered intoxication assault in Texas. In this context, serious injury means there is a “substantial risk of death” to the victim or a “protracted loss or impairment” of any part of their body. And you do not have to be driving a car or truck to commit intoxication assault; the law also applies to operating any “aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride” while under the influence.
Unlike a first-time DUI in Texas, which is only considered a Class B misdemeanor punishable by no more than 180 days in jail, intoxication assault is a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $10,000 fine. And an intoxication assault charge may be bumped up to a second-degree felony if the victim is a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker acting in the performance of their duties. Likewise, it is a second-degree felony if the intoxication assault leaves cases a “traumatic brain injury” to the victim, which leaves them in a “persistent vegetative state.” A second-degree felony carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The standards for intoxication manslaughter are largely the same as intoxication assault, except the victim dies as a result of his or her injuries. Intoxication manslaughter is generally a second-degree felony, but if the victim is a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker, it is elevated to a first-degree felony, which carries the possibility of a lifetime prison sentence.
What Constitutes “Intoxication”?
The intoxication standard for intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter is the same as for a regular DUI/DWI in Texas. A person is automatically considered intoxicated if his or her blood-alcohol level is .08 percent or higher. However, even if a person does not meet this threshold, a prosecutor can still prove intoxication if other evidence establishes the defendant did not have “the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol” or another controlled substance at the time of the accident.
Contact a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Any type of drunk driving charge is serious. And when intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter is involved, the legal consequences for a defendant escalate significantly. But there are always possible defenses available to a defendant. In order to take advantage of such defenses and maximize your chances at a favorable outcome, you should work with an experienced Galveston criminal defense lawyer who understands the legal system. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you are in need of assistance to speak with an intoxication assault lawyer today.