Texas Increases Criminal Penalties for Drunk Drivers

Nearly everybody understands that drinking and driving puts lives at risk. Despite this, tens of thousands of Texas drivers are arrested every year for DWI.

This behavior undoubtedly puts everyone on the road in harm's way. In fact, Texas is one of the deadliest states in the nation when it comes to drunk driving fatalities - in 2009 alone, over 1,200 Texans lost their lives at the hands of intoxicated drivers.

A new law is hoping to stem this tragic tide by imposing increased penalties on highly intoxicated drivers, as well as those who cause severe harm to another person.

The Abdallah Khader Act - named after a young boy who was left in a vegetative state after his family's car was hit by a drunk driver - applies to drivers who have a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more. Those drivers will now face Class B misdemeanors, which come with a possible sentence of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. First-time offenders will not be exempt from the increased penalties.

Even though a blood alcohol content of 0.15 signals a fairly high level of intoxication, it is not rare for police to arrest drivers who are that drunk. In San Antonio, for example, approximately half of drivers suspected of DWI refuse a breath test and instead must have their blood drawn. In that pool of suspected drunk drivers, the average blood alcohol content is 0.16.

The act also raises the penalty for causing a drunk driving accident that puts another person in a vegetative state. For the purpose of criminal punishment, those drivers will be treated as if they killed the victim.

Drunk Driving Accident Victims Can Bring Civil Lawsuits

In addition to the criminal penalties Texas courts impose on a drunk driver, accident victims can often bring a civil lawsuit to seek compensation for their injuries.

To be successful in a lawsuit, an accident victim must prove that the driver who caused the accident was behaving negligently. A drunk driving conviction is excellent proof of negligence. However, it is not required. It is often enough to show that the driver had alcohol in his or her system before getting behind the wheel.

If you have been the victim of a drunk driving accident, it's important to act quickly - lawyers will need to preserve evidence and will likely need to interview witnesses while their memories are still good. Contact an experienced Austin car accident attorney who can help you pursue justice.