New Charges are Part of a Crackdown on Drunk Drivers

by Ramonica R. Jones

The man accused of causing a drunk driving wreck late Saturday night is in stable condition at a Lufkin hospital. A woman involved in that crash is also being treated for a 10-inch gash to her head.

Twenty-five year-old Guillermo Olivares is charged with intoxication assault. The charge is fairly new. Since 2001, causing an injury while driving drunk no longer falls under DWI. Making the offense more serious is part of a crack down on drunk drivers.

"Previously, there wasn't anything that you could file other than an aggravated assault, basing the car as a deadly weapon," Lt. Greg Denman of the Lufkin Police Department says. "Before, it was just that there was a DWI and someone was injured out of it."

Driving while intoxicated, causing bodily injury, was considered a misdemeanor charge. Intoxication assault is a felony. A conviction can land you in prison for up to 10 years. The charge means someone couldn't get up and walk away from a drunk driving wreck.

"Intoxication assault is a Felony 3. Iintoxication manslaughter is a Felony 2," Lt. Denman says. "Neither one of them is an easy punishment to get away with."

It'll be another couple years before lawmakers can tell if changing the seriousness of charges is helping in the fight against drunk drivers. They hope so. Last year, intoxicated with a child also became a charge. Anyone caught driving drunk with someone under the age of 14 in the car now faces a state jail felony instead of a DWI misdemeanor.