Definition of Intoxication Assault
Intoxication assault, as set out in the Texas Penal Code, occurs when an individual, because of intoxication, causes serious bodily injury to another person.
This injury can result from the person operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or even an amusement ride. The term “serious bodily injury” is significant.
The law defines it as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, results in death, serious permanent disfigurement, or impairs the function of any body part or organ either temporarily or permanently.
While the term “assault” might evoke images of intentional harm, intoxication assault is about the negligence arising out of intoxication, not a deliberate intent to cause harm.
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We have gone to trial on Intoxication Assault cases, intoxication manslaughters and hundreds of driving while intoxicated cases. We have worked first as prosecutors and are now accomplished defense lawyers. A number of our partners are also Board Certified in Criminal Law – making them experts on the matter.
Elements to Prove Intoxication Assault
For someone to be convicted of intoxication assault, the prosecutor must successfully demonstrate a few specific elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
Operation of a Vehicle or Machinery
First and foremost, it must be proven that the accused was operating a vehicle or other machinery. This encompasses cars, boats, aircraft, and even amusement park rides.
The prosecutor must establish that the individual was intoxicated at the time of the incident. This is typically done using evidence from breath, blood, or urine tests, though field sobriety tests and witness testimonies can also play a role.
It’s not enough to show that the accused was intoxicated while operating a vehicle. The prosecutor must also show a direct link between this intoxicated operation and the resultant injury. In other words, the injury would not have occurred if not for the accused’s intoxicated state.
Serious Bodily Injury
As mentioned earlier, the injury in question must be “serious”. Proving this often involves medical testimonies and evidence to highlight the severity of the injury.
What is Serious Bodily Injury in Texas?
According to Texas Penal Code §1.07(a)(46), “serious bodily injury” is defined as:
“Bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
To break this definition down:
Substantial Risk of Death
This does not necessarily mean that death has occurred, but the injury is so severe that it could realistically result in death.
Serious Permanent Disfigurement
This refers to alterations to one’s appearance or external condition that are significant and long-lasting. Examples could be significant scars, burns, or other injuries that change one’s appearance in a pronounced manner.
Protracted Loss or Impairment
This element of the definition focuses on the long-term impact of the injury. “Protracted” suggests an extended period, meaning the injury isn’t just a temporary ailment. It encompasses situations where an individual might lose the function of a limb, organ, or any bodily member for an extended duration, if not permanently.
It’s important to understand this definition, especially in the context of offenses like intoxication assault, the severity of the bodily injury can affect the charges and subsequent penalties. The distinction between “bodily injury” and “serious bodily injury” can often be the determining factor in the classification of an offense and its associated repercussions.
Intoxication Assault in Texas: A Statistical Overview
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2019, there were over 2,500 crashes in Texas due to driving under the influence where serious injuries were reported. While not all of these necessarily translate into intoxication assault charges, it gives an approximation of the scale.
In Texas, the term “serious bodily injury” has a specific legal definition as per the Penal Code, which differentiates it from other types of injuries. This definition is crucial in several legal contexts, particularly when determining the severity of an offense and the corresponding penalties.
Possible Outcomes in an Intoxication Assault Case
Up to 10 Years in Prison
Definition: A convicted individual can be sentenced to serve time in a state prison.
Context: For intoxication assault cases in Texas, since it’s classified as a third-degree felony, the penalty can range from a minimum of 2 years up to a maximum of 10 years in prison. The exact duration depends on the specifics of the case, the defendant’s past criminal record, and the severity of the injury caused. This prison time is separate from any fines or other penalties that might also be imposed.
Probation up to 10 Years
Definition: Probation is an alternative to incarceration where the defendant remains free but must adhere to specific conditions set by the court.
Context: In intoxication assault cases, if the defendant is found guilty (or pleads guilty), the court might sentence them to probation instead of, or in addition to, prison time. The conditions of probation can vary, including regular check-ins with a probation officer, attendance of alcohol education programs, community service, and more. The length of probation can be up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the offense and the defendant’s past record. Jail time is a mandatory condition of probation.
Definition: A dismissal means the case is terminated and closed without any finding of guilt or conviction against the defendant.
Context: In an intoxication assault case, a dismissal might occur for various reasons. Examples include evidence being inadmissible in court, flawed arrest procedures, or if a key witness becomes unavailable or recants their testimony.
Definition: A “no-bill” decision occurs when a grand jury, after reviewing evidence presented by the prosecution, chooses not to issue an indictment against the accused.
Context: In intoxication assault cases, a no-bill typically means the grand jury did not find enough evidence to warrant a trial. This could be due to questions around intoxication levels, uncertainties about the cause of the injury, or other factors.
Definition: An acquittal means the defendant is found “not guilty” after a trial.
Context: In the context of intoxication assault, an acquittal might result from the defense successfully casting doubt on the prosecution’s evidence. This can revolve around challenging blood alcohol content (BAC) tests, witness testimonies, or proving that the assault was not due to the defendant’s intoxication.
Reduction to Misdemeanor
Definition: If the prosecution cannot prove the element of “serious bodily injury”, the charges may be reduced from a felony (intoxication assault) to a misdemeanor (typically a DWI).
Context: The distinction between bodily injury and serious bodily injury is crucial. If it’s demonstrated that the injuries sustained by the victim do not meet the threshold of SBI as defined in Texas law, then the more severe charge of intoxication assault might be dropped in favor of a lesser charge.
If you have been charged with Intoxication Assault in Texas, put our experts on your side. Give us a call at (817) 203-2220 today.