A bill filed Thursday could make it easier for prosecutors to send intoxicated drivers to jail for injuring someone.
Right now, in order for someone to be charged with intoxication assault, they must nearly kill, permanently disfigure or cause someone lengthy physical impairment.
Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee is aiming to close what he calls a "bodily injury loophole."
When Henderson County prosecuted a series of felony DWI's last summer, the numerous repeat offenders got McKee's attention. But, he was also bothered by something else-- the DWI injuries that the law didn't recognize, because they simply weren't defined as "serious."
"We had situations where people had broken arms, broken legs, broken orbital bones and under the law, that's not serious bodily injury." McKee says.
Now, he's looking to add the charge, "intoxication assault causing bodily injury" to the penal code. Currently, the law only recognizes "serious bodily injury."
If passed, an intoxicated driver who inflicts any degree of physical pain, impairment or illness on another, could be charged with a state jail felony and serve up to two years in jail. Right now, intoxicated drivers who injure others could walk away with a DWI-- a misdemeanor with less serious consequences.
"If you had your arm broken or your leg broken... to some people, that's their livelihood. They miss out on work. We had a case where a fireman was run over from an intoxicated driver and it wasn't serious bodily injury so we couldn't charge that driver with intoxication assault," McKee says.
That even means an intoxicated person who causes so much as a scratch on someone else, could be prosecuted for intoxication assault causing bodily injury under the new law. However, McKee explains, that doesn't mean every injury needs to back up the court system.
"I think that's up to grand juries. That's up to prosecutors, too. Where we have discretion to look at that case--- certainly with a victim's input. It's up to juries and courts on what we do about a situation like that,"
Representative Lance Gooden filed the bill, HB 1082, Thursday.
"I looked into it, I talked to the district attorney in Kaufman County--where I also represent-- and he was supportive. We've had a great response from district attorneys across the state," Gooden says.
McKee will be heading to Austin next week to address the bill. He says the bill may meet some opposition because legislators are expected to lower some offenses this session in a effort to stop jail overcrowding.
Sunday, May 19 2013 10:07 AM EDT2013-05-19 14:07:39 GMT
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