DWI with Vehicle Crash
Brian Foley is a DWI lawyer and criminal defense attorney in Conroe, Texas representing people charged with DWI Vehicle Crashes in Houston, Conroe, the Woodlands, and the surrounding counties.
What is a DWI with a Vehicle Crash?
The Texas Penal Code does not distinguish between a DWI with a vehicle crash and a regular DWI without a crash. However, Texas Prosecutors and juries often make a distinction when it comes to both the punishments that they seek and the likelihood of conviction. Many times a driving while intoxicated investigation can begin with a vehicle being involved in a collision. Clients may drive off the road due to being distracted. Dangerous roadways out in the country may be poorly lit and cause crashes regularly.
When someone crashes they may need medical attention and typically someone passing by, or the client themselves will call 911 to report the crash. When police arrive and the crash has already occurred they will do a crash investigation followed by a DWI investigation if they see things like open alcohol containers, or smell alcohol at the scene.
Challenging a DWI with a Vehicle Crash.
There are multiple ways to challenge a DWI with a vehicle crash. First the challenge that a prosecutor will face in obtaining a conviction involves what is called, “wheeling” the defendant. To be convicted of DWI in Texas the State must prove that you operated a motor vehicle. Circumstantial evidence can be used but if you do not make an admission to driving or it is not clear what time the driving occurred there may not be any witnesses that can say you were operating the vehicle. If no other persons were injured or involved in the crash then it could be argued that there is no evidence of the timing of the driving or when the vehicle crash actually occurred. If alcohol is consumed after a wreck then it may not be possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was intoxicated when the operation took place.
Another challenge with these types of cases is the fact that many times if the client is transported to the hospital there will be no standardized field sobriety tests and therefore little to no evidence about the loss of mental or physical faculties. Additionally if you have just been in a crash and received a concussion then performing one of the field sobriety tests, the "HGN" or "eye-test" is inappropriate.
Can an officer force me to leave my house for a DWI investigation?
If you drove home and went inside and are confronted by police you have absolutely no obligation to open the door and speak with the police. If you have not called police to your house to report an emergency and there are no “exigent circumstances” like the destruction of evidence, then police may not enter a home to search or seize a person for a criminal investigation unless they first obtain a warrant. Obtaining a warrant is time consuming and can be challenging to wake up a judge late at night. If the police do enter your home it is not proper to resist arrest or be rude. You should always be respectful to law enforcement (or anyone for that matter) even if you believe that they are proceeding without legal right. If the police have violated the law in the methods or manner in which they searched your house or your person then the evidence will be thrown out by the Judge under the “exclusionary rule.” This rule punishes police by excluding otherwise relevant evidence from being presented during a trial when there is a legal or constitutional violation.
Head Injury and Hospital Blood.
One common issue for prosecutors trying to prove a DWI related to a vehicle crash is that symptoms that appear to be intoxication can be present when someone sustains a head injury. Vehicle crashes can be violent and if you have been hospitalized or diagnosed with a concussion then this can lead to lack of balance, and other motor performance issues that could be mistaken for intoxication on alcohol or another drug. Also, the hospital may give you intoxicating substances in order to manage pain from the crash and a blood test may reveal other substances when taken from the Hospital. Having a lawyer that understands how hospital blood is used and converted from serum to whole blood numbers is extremely important. A conviction should not be upheld when there is no evidence of loss of normal use of mental or physical faculties and only a serum blood alcohol number is found.
What is the Punishment for DWI Vehicle Crash
A DWI with a vehicle crash that does not lead to serious bodily injury or death is a Class B Misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine for first offenders.