Most first time DWI offenses are charged as misdemeanors, which means that defendants are often able to avoid jail time. This is not, however, always the case for first time DWI offenders who also are also accused of causing an accident.
In fact, being involved in an accident while intoxicated usually means that a person will face aggravated criminal charges, which comes with significant jail time and the potential revocation of his or her driver’s license.
Just because you were arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated after an accident does not mean that you will necessarily be convicted of a criminal offense, especially if you have strong legal representation, so if you were recently charged with a DWI, you should speak with an experienced Houston DWI defense lawyer who can help you begin building a defense.
First Time DWI Penalties
Most first time DWI offenders face Class B misdemeanor charges and if convicted, could be incarcerated for six months, pay thousands of dollars in fines, be required to comply with the terms of probation, and have their driver’s license suspended for up to two years. In addition to these penalties, a first-time offender could also be required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle, pay expensive administrative fees, and complete a DWI intervention program.
State district attorneys do have the discretion to pursue a wider range of criminal penalties, however, if the defendant in question allegedly caused an accident. The specific charges that a person could face in these situations depends on:
- His or her level of intoxication; and
- Whether the crash resulted in property damage or physical injuries.
Crashes Resulting in Property Damage
Drivers who cause significant property damage while driving under the influence could be charged with reckless damage or destruction, which is a Class C misdemeanor. If the damage was more extensive or costly to repair, a driver could also be charged with criminal mischief, which can be a felony offense.
Crashes Resulting in Physical Injuries
When a DWI case involves a collision that results in the physical injury of one or more people, the driver could be charged with intoxication assault, which is a third degree felony.
Although prosecutors often try to pursue this claim in DWI accident cases, a person can actually only be convicted of this offense if he or she caused someone else to suffer serious bodily harm, which means that the injured party faces the prospect of permanent or long-term disability. Those who are convicted of this offense could be sentenced to between two and ten years in prison and be required to pay a $10,000 fine.
DWI Defense Lawyers
Although you may have been charged with a DWI or related offense, all hope is not lost. If, for example, an officer failed to conduct field sobriety testing as required, the results of that test could be put into question. In these cases, a skilled lawyer could successfully negotiate with the prosecution to reduce the pending charges.
For help coming up with a strong defense strategy, please contact the experienced DWI defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City by calling 713-802-1631 today.