Texas lawmakers have taken a hard line with individuals who drive while intoxicated and
cause serious bodily injury to another person. Texas Penal Code Section 49.07 makes
such conduct a third-degree felony. If the victim is a police officer, firefighter or
emergency medical services member on active duty at the time of the incident,
the charge increases to become a second-degree felony.
A serious bodily injury is one that causes a substantial risk of death, significant permanent
disfigurement or the loss or impairment of a body part or organ. The second-degree
felony of intoxication manslaughter occurs when an intoxicated driver causes
the death of another person.
Because assault while intoxicated is a serious offense under Texas law, the penalties and other consequences are quite severe. A judge can impose confinement to a state prison for two to 10 years and fines up to $10,000.
If the intoxicated driver is convicted of assaulting a peace officer, firefighter or emergency medical worker, the prison sentence can increase to 20 years.
The statute provides that a person can be convicted of intoxicated assault even if the contact
with the victim was a mistake or an accident. Even so, the prosecutor has the burden of
proving a driver’s intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt if the case goes to trial.
This burden of proof is the highest imposed by the law and can make it
difficult to obtain a conviction.
Proving intoxication at trial usually includes a breath, blood or urine test to determine the
accused driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest. Criminal defense
attorneys can challenge the methods used by the police to administer a breath test
or gather blood or urine samples in an effort to create reasonable doubt in the
minds of the jurors or the judge trying the case.