If an individual is involved in a drunk driving accident, they may face additional charges long after the initial accident.
The time between the initial accident and the filing of the case can vary depending on the type of charge and the length of time a state has to file.
The period between the accident and the charge can be enough to send anyone into a tailspin. Long periods with no updates can wreak more havoc on the emotional and mental well-being of the perpetrator.
What is a DUI?
DUI stands for driving under the influence. A person can be charged with DUI if they operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. These drugs can include anything from prescription medications and over-the-counter medications to illegal drugs.
Types of DUI Charges
Texas is one of the most conservative states when it comes to drunk driving. Drunk driving accident cases are taken very seriously and can have severe repercussions. There are a few different types of DUI charges including first, second, and third offenses; DWI with a child passenger, intoxication assault, and intoxication manslaughter.
A first offense with a DUI or DWI charge is likely to result in probation, though jail time is still viable. If an individual is involved in a car accident involving alcohol and it is their first offense, they may face up to $2,000 in fines, jail time, license suspension, educational programming, and probation. They may also be required to use a possible ignition interlock device. A first DWI or DUI offense is considered a class b misdemeanor.
Those involved in a DWI accident as a second offense may be subject to a $4,000 fine, jail time, license suspension, educational programming, and a possible ignition interlock device. Jail time can be anywhere from one month to one year. License suspension for this offense can be up to two years.
Individuals involved in a DWI accident as a third offense can expect to pay up to $10,000 in fines. Third-time offenders may also face anywhere from two to ten years in state prison and up to two years of driver's license suspension. They will also be required to participate in DWI educational courses and use a possible ignition interlocking device.
DWI Accident with a Child Passenger
If an individual is arrested for drinking and driving with a child passenger, they may face up to $10,000 in fines, up to two years of jail time, and up to 180 days of driver's license suspension. A child passenger, in this case, is defined as anyone under the age of 15 in Texas.
DUI Charges that Cause Serious Bodily Injury or Death
All drunk driving accident cases are serious. However, individuals charged with either of these two additional DUI charges face grave consequences.
A person can be charged with intoxication assault if they are drinking and driving and cause an accident that causes serious bodily injury to another individual.
Texas defines serious bodily injury as any injury that causes severe disfigurement or loss, impairment of organ function, or significant risk of death. Individuals charged with intoxication assault face criminal penalties. This type of charge is considered a third-degree felony.
A person can be charged with intoxication manslaughter if they kill another individual while drinking under the influence. They will face criminal charges for this offense. If they are convicted, they will have a second-degree felony charge on their record.
While a DUI charge may not seem like a big deal, a DUI or DWI conviction can be. The attorneys at Sparks Law Firm in Fort Worth can help an individual who has been charged with DUI determine the next steps.
What Happens at a Car Accident Scene
When police officers arrive at the scene of a suspected drunk driving accident, they will first assess the situation. They will look for obvious signs of alcohol use. This may include things like open bottles or cans, or the smell of alcohol in the air.
They will also turn to the individuals involved in the accident. They will listen to each of those involved and note anything that is mentioned about suspected alcohol use. If the individuals are not injured from the auto accident, they may request a roadside test. However, if they are unable to perform the test, but smell alcohol or have other visual confirmations that alcohol was involved, they can make an immediate arrest.
A police officer may also request a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) if one is available. PAS devices are used to measure blood alcohol concentration. This screening provides a quick and easy way for law enforcement officials to determine if a person has been drinking. This test will only be requested if there is probable cause to apprehend an individual for DUI. It is important to note that this screening is voluntary, so an individual can deny the officer's request. A blood test may be requested in place of a breathalyzer test. Find out how long it takes to get DUI blood test results.
Based on observations, information collected from those involved in the accident, information shared by witnesses, and any roadside tests that were provided, the event is carefully documented in an accident report and an arrest may be made.
What Happens Following a Drunk Driving Accident
After an individual is arrested in the Fort Worth area, they may be released. However, they can still be charged following a DWI accident. It may just take some time depending on the location and nature of the charge.
The uncertainty of what may happen in the future regarding any criminal proceedings can take a toll on a person. An individual may feel like their life is on hold. They may worry about how a DUI charge might affect their employment status or living situation. If they are a licensed professional, they may begin to worry about how a potential DUI charge will affect their standing. They may also start to worry about how a DUI charge will affect their loved ones.
Not knowing what is going to happen can place a significant mental and emotional burden on the shoulders of an individual. This is often coupled with the anxiety, concern, and worry that has festered from the initial event. The whole situation can feel very overwhelming.
Any individual involved in a DWI accident should contact the best DWI lawyer in Fort Worth TX as soon as possible and seek immediate legal counsel.
How Much Time Does the State Have to File a DUI Case?
Sometimes, a person will be charged with a DUI, but will not receive a court date. This process can take a while and is dependent on many factors.
Eventually, however, the state will need to file the charges and they have a specific amount of time to do so depending on the type of DUI charge and the statute of limitations. Texas state law outlines the amount of time a prosecutor has to file a case.
The statute of limitations is a law that dictates the length of time parties have to initiate legal proceedings following the date of a charge or alleged offense. The statute of limitations applies to civil and criminal charges.
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Less Serious Offenses
While some offenses like murder, for example, have no statute of limitations, certain DUI and DWI charges do. A first-time DWI offense, which is a class b misdemeanor, has a two-year statute of limitations. For a second-time DUI offense, the statute of limitations is two years. This means a prosecutor has up to two years to file a case for this charge. The same two-year period applies to a class c misdemeanor for a minor.
More Serious Offenses
For more serious DWI cases involving criminal charges like a third offense or DWI with a child passenger, the statute of limitations is three years. An intoxication assault charge, which is a third-degree felony, also has a statute of limitations of three years.
Intoxication manslaughter has no statute of limitations. This means that a prosecutor can file a case at any time, even if it is years past the date of the original DUI accident.
Why Might it Take a While for the State to File?
Sometimes, a police officer may charge you with DUI, but the prosecution has not yet filed a case. In some cases, this can be caused by a backup at the prosecutor's office. They may be prioritizing certain cases based on the severity of the charge and the nature of the situation.
Other times, the prosecution may be holding off on filing a case until they can gather enough substantial evidence. If a blood test was administered at the scene of the accident, it could take a while for the results to come back. This can also cause a delay. Additionally, if an individual was seriously injured or died at the scene of the accident, it can take a while for forensic evidence to come back, as well.
DWI accident cases can be complicated and a lot of factors come into play with filing a case, especially one involving criminal charges.
What Happens if the State Fails to File?
Occasionally, an individual will be charged with DUI, but a case will never be filed. In these rare instances, a person may be cleared as long as the statute of limitations has expired. Once the statute of limitations has expired, a prosecutor will no longer be able to file a case for a car crash.
Though a case may not be filed, the initial charge will still show on an individual's record. This is still not good, as it can negatively affect job prospects and background checks, among other things. An individual can work with a criminal defense lawyer to expunge their record.
Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney
In any situation, an individual will want to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible following a DUI accident. The criminal defense attorneys at Sparks Law Firm are top-rated and can provide a person with the support and legal counsel they need following a DWI accident.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Based on the charge and the unique details of the situation, a criminal defense attorney can fight to have the sentence reduced or the case dismissed entirely. Some of the arguments they may use to fight a case include:
No blood specimen or breath test results
The time of intoxication and whether a person was inebriated at the time of the accident
Discrepancies in given lab results
No probable cause for arrest for DUI
Car accidents involving alcohol can be tricky, but a criminal defense attorney at Sparks Law Firm can help present a strong case against the charge and fight for the best outcome.
Selecting a Criminal Defense Attorney
When selecting the right criminal defense attorney, knowledge, experience, and customer care matter. The criminal defense attorneys at Sparks Law Firm have helped hundreds of people in the Fort Worth area successfully navigate the legal process with ease.
With some of the strictest laws in the country, the criminal defense team at Sparks Law Firm understands how to investigate car accidents and disprove a prosecutor's case. They are aggressive, yet sensitive to the needs of the clients they serve. The attorney-client relationship is of the utmost importance.
Additionally, the criminal defense attorneys at Sparks Law Firm offer a free consultation to prospective clients to learn the details of the case. This also presents an opportunity for the client to address any questions or concerns they may have. Once an agreement is made and a partnership is formed, the attorneys at Sparks Law Firm work alongside the client to ensure justice is served.
For more information on DWI accidents or to schedule a free consultation, contact Sparks Law Firm at 817-381-7846.