What happens if you get arrested for DWI after an accident?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Being arrested for DWI can be a terrible experience that can be significantly more stressful if there is an accident involved. In the Houston area, most DWIs do not involve accidents, but accidents are far from uncommon. If you are involved in a DWI involving an accident, it is critical that you consult with an experienced DWI attorney to understand the charge against you, and how an accident can affect a possible outcome. 

The severity of the accident will be the most important factor in determining what effect the accident could have on your case and what charge you may be facing. Most DWIs involving accidents are filed as misdemeanors which means that although there was an accident, there is no allegation of serious injuries. In Texas, a DWI with serious bodily injury is filed as intoxication assault, which is a third-degree felony punishable by 2-10 years. DWIs involving accidents resulting in death are filed as intoxication manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2-20 years. 

If you are charged with a misdemeanor DWI involving an accident, your case will not be charged differently than a non-accident misdemeanor DWI, but the fact that there was an accident could impact your case in several ways. First of all, you will be more likely to face restrictive bond conditions, including an interlock device, or random alcohol testing. Next, being involved in an accident could disqualify you from many pre-trial diversion programs. In Harris County, for example, one requirement of the DWI pre-trial diversion program is that you were not involved in an accident (you lawyer may be able to appeal in certain cases). Additionally, if you are convicted, you may also be required to pay restitution for any damages you have caused against another vehicle or property. 

In cases alleging intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter, the issues described above are very likely to arise in your case (pre-trial diversion is almost never available in intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter cases, and you will certainly face more restrictive bond conditions). Additionally, a DWI attorney will have to look into issues of causation. This means that a DWI lawyer will have to investigate whether an accident was actually caused by a defendant’s intoxication. In other words, just because there is an accident in a DWI does not mean that it was a result of a defendant’s intoxication. Often, to contest intoxication in an intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter case, it will be necessary for a DWI attorney to consult with an accident reconstructionist to determine what the cause of the accident was. 

Very frequently, a defendant charged with a DWI involving an accident will be sued by the other driver while the criminal case is pending. Although a civil lawsuit does not generally have a direct impact on the DWI, it is advisable that a defendant consult with a DWI attorney before giving a statement to his insurance, to minimize the risk that a damaging statement could hurt the criminal case. 

DWIs are already some of the most technical types of criminal cases as they involve the science of breath or blood testing, specialized police procedures, and the law of search and seizures (which is the body of law that controls the legality of traffic stops, detentions, arrests and confessions). When a DWI involves an accident, this adds another layer of complexity to the case. Whether a DWI involving an accident is charged as a first-time misdemeanor DWI, or a much more serious case like intoxication assault, or intoxication manslaughter, it is very important to have an experienced attorney on your side. 

Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor who has handled hundreds of DWIs throughout the Greater Houston area. He has undergone hundreds of hours of specialized training relating to the technical aspects of DWIs and is certified to administer Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. If you are charged with a DWI involving an accident, or any intoxication-related offense, call Ceja Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.
Posted in DWI