Charged with intoxication assault in Texas? You're not alone. Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, seasoned Austin intoxication assault lawyers possess more than 60 years of combined total experience. Now, we're ready to put that knowledge to work for you, to defend your rights and help secure the best possible outcome in your intoxication assault case. Don't delay – contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC now at (512) 991-0576 or online.
In Texas, the statutes regarding intoxication assault are quite serious and complex. In this article, we aim to help you understand what they mean.
What Is Intoxication Assault?
According to Texas Statutes Section 49.07, an intoxication assault crime happens when a person, by accident or mistake, while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances, operates a watercraft, aircraft, amusement ride, or a vehicle in a place open to the public and causes serious bodily injury to another person. It can also happen if a person constructs an amusement ride that is mobile while intoxicated, which results in someone being seriously injured.
"Serious bodily injury" is an injury that can potentially lead to death, permanent disfigurement, or long-term loss or impairment of any body organ or part.
An intoxication assault charge is usually a felony of the third degree. However, there are situations where an intoxication assault offense could be considered a more severe crime, as we'll explain next.
Enhanced Offenses And Penalties For Intoxication Assault Charges
Section 49.09 outlines the enhanced offenses and penalties related to intoxication assault. Normally, being found guilty of operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated is considered a Class A misdemeanor, with at least 30 days of confinement, especially if the person has been previously convicted once for a related offense.
But if you've been convicted before, the charge can escalate to a felony of the third degree. This applies if you've been convicted once of an offense similar to Section 49.08, or twice of any other offense relating to the operation of a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated.
Intoxication assault can be charged as a second-degree felony if, while intoxicated, you caused serious bodily injury to a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel who were performing their official duties. If you caused serious bodily injury to a peace officer or judge while they were performing their official duties, the crime could be considered a first-degree felony.
Also, if you cause a serious brain injury that results in a persistent vegetative state to another person while under the influence, the crime can be considered a second-degree felony.
Definitions Of Intoxicated Operation
The Texas Penal Code Section 49.09 goes further to define what constitutes offenses related to operating different types of vehicles or rides while intoxicated. For motor vehicles, this covers offenses under Section 49.04 or 49.045, as well as 49.07 or 49.08 if a motor vehicle was involved. The law also refers to past statutes and laws of other states that prohibit operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Similar definitions are given for the intoxicated operation of aircraft, watercraft, and amusement rides, referencing various sections of the penal code and other statutes.
Breath Analysis Device Requirement
If you are found guilty of a subsequent or second offense concerning the operation a motor vehicle while under the influence within 5 years of the day of your most recent prior offense, the judge will order that a device be installed on each motor vehicle that you own or operate. This device employs a mechanism that analyses deep lung breath to make it impractical to operate the vehicle if (ethyl) alcohol is present in your breath. The device must be installed at your own expense, and failure to comply with this order is punishable by contempt.
Defenses To Texas Intoxication Assault Charges
Challenging The Intoxication Claim
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the incident. This might be done through breathalyzer tests, field sobriety tests, or blood tests. However, all of these tests have room for error. For instance, a breathalyzer might have been incorrectly calibrated or the blood sample might have been mishandled. If the defense can cast doubt on the reliability of these tests, it could challenge the claim of intoxication.
Disputing The Cause Of The Injury
The prosecution also has to prove that the defendant’s intoxication directly caused the serious bodily injury. This means that if there was another factor—like another driver's actions or a mechanical fault with the vehicle—that could have led to the accident, this might serve as a defense. Expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists, might be called upon to provide testimony.
Questioning The Seriousness Of The Injury
The statute specifically mentions "(serious) bodily injury." This refers to an injury that causes a significant risk of death, serious irreversible disfigurement, or prolonged loss or impairment of any bodily member or organ. If the injury in question does not meet these criteria, then the charges of Intoxication Assault may not apply. Medical experts might be consulted to evaluate the extent and impact of the injuries.
This is a less common defense, but it may apply in some cases. If the defendant became Intoxicated through no fault of their own—for example, if their drink was spiked without their knowledge—then this might be used as a defense. However, it's important to note that this defense would not apply in cases where the defendant chose to consume alcohol or drugs, even if they did not expect to become as intoxicated as they did.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Considered 'Intoxication' Under Texas Law?
According to the Texas Penal Code, a person is considered intoxicated if they do not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance in the body; or they have an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
How Is 'Serious Bodily Injury' Defined Under This Statute?
The Penal Code of Texas defines (serious) bodily injury as any injury that causes death or a significant or substantial risk of death, permanent serious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
What Are The Penalties For Intoxication Assault In Texas?
Intoxication Assault is a third-degree felony in Texas. If convicted, a defendant can face between 2 and 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The penalties can be enhanced in certain situations, such as if the defendant has prior convictions or if the victim was a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.
Can I Be Charged With Intoxication Assault If I Was On Prescription Medication?
Yes, you can be charged with Intoxication Assault if you were impaired due to the effects of prescription medication and you caused serious bodily injury to another person as a result. The law does not differentiate between alcohol, illegal drugs, and legal medications when it comes to intoxication.
What Defenses Are Available To Me If I'm Charged With Intoxication Assault?
Potential defenses can vary greatly depending on the specifics of the case. Common defenses include disputing the validity of the tests used to determine intoxication, arguing that the defendant's intoxication did not cause the accident, or questioning the severity of the injury. It's crucial to seek legal advice if you're facing these charges, as a criminal defense lawyer will be able to provide advice tailored to your situation.
Intoxication Assault Attorney
Facing intoxication assault charges in Texas can be frightening and confusing. Don't navigate this complex legal journey alone. Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, Austin-based intoxication assault attorneys have more than 60 years of combined total experience, representing over 25,000 cases, with more than 370 jury trials under our belt. Leveraging our extensive courtroom experience, including tenures as prosecutors and judges, we're equipped to deliver solid results even in the most complex scenarios. Our intimate understanding of the Texas legal system allows our criminal defense lawyers to meticulously strategize for your defense, ensuring your rights are robustly protected and advocating for your best possible outcome. Time is of the essence.
Connect with our dedicated team at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC today at (512) 991-0576 or reach us online to start discussing your case. Trust us to turn your challenging circumstances into a pathway for potential acquittal or lesser charges.
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