Getting into a crash while intoxicated is bad enough. But if the driver then goes ahead and flees the scene of the accident, they can face some of the steepest penalties imaginable under Texas law.
In Houston, hit-and-run accidents are a big problem. Every week, a new report appears in the Houston Chronicle of someone badly injured or killed in a hit and run collision. Motorists will flee at any time of the day, even in broad daylight. For these reasons, we don’t anticipate Harris County prosecutors taking things lightly on someone whose first instinct is to hit the gas after getting into a crash. Instead, drivers should expect the state to throw the book at them. If you have been arrested for fleeing a Houston DWI accident, contact Tad Nelson as soon as possible to speak with an attorney.
Duty to Stop & Render Aid
Texas Transportation Code § 550.021 requires that motorists involved in an accident stop and give reasonable assistance to anyone injured. This assistance can include calling an ambulance to come pick up the victim and take them to the hospital. This duty to render assistance isn’t optional—it’s the law.
Sadly, many people who are intoxicated are not thinking carefully or clearly. And someone who makes the mistake of driving while intoxicated can easily compound that mistake by also fleeing the scene.
Punishments are Enhanced
If you flee the scene of an accident, then you can face the following penalties once convicted:
- If the person you struck suffers a minor injury, then you could be fined up to $5,000 and spend 1-5 years behind bars.
- If a victim suffered a serious bodily injury, then it is a third-degree felony, and you are facing 2-10 years in prison and possibly a fine up to $10,000.
- If the person dies, you are facing second-degree felony charges and penalties of 2-20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
The law was changed recently to make fleeing when someone dies equivalent to DWI manslaughter. Previously, fleeing the scene was punishable as a misdemeanor, which is the lowest level criminal offense in Texas. Many misdemeanors result in no time in jail, so this is a big change.
Why did legislators increase the penalties for hit and runs? In a word: deterrence. Some people might flee the scene of an accident so that the alcohol can clear from their system by the time the police arrive to arrest them. To create an incentive to stay and render assistance to victims, legislators jacked up the penalties for those who flee. Now, it is in your best interest to stop and render aid to any victim, even if you have been drinking.
Contact a Houston DWI Attorney for Immediate Assistance
Anyone can make a mistake. But making multiple mistakes, like driving while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of an accident, are harder to explain away. At our office, Tad Nelson provides the highest quality legal defense to those facing DWI charges in Houston and surrounding areas. Please call us to schedule a consultation.