In Houston as well as elsewhere in Texas, operating an amusement ride while intoxicated, or even assembling a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated, is a crime with potentially serious consequences that can saddle you with a criminal record for life. Representing yourself against such a serious charge is almost never a good idea.
Elements of the Offense
To win a conviction, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- you were intoxicated
- you operating an amusement ride at the time
It sounds simple, but a closer look at these elements can be fruitful when formulating an effective defense. A good lawyer will examine the text of the criminal statute closely, searching for ambiguities that be exploited for the benefit of his client.
Under Texas law, you are legally “intoxicated” if:
- You were under the influence of alcohol, an illegal drug, a prescription or other drug known to cause intoxication, or a combination of two or all three of these, and as a result:.
- you had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08 percent (at the time that the offense was committed, not necessarily at the time that you were tested), or
- you lacked the normal use of your mental or physical facilities at the time that the offense was committed.
If you were not given a breathalyzer test, or if you did not register at least 0.08 percent, you can still be convicted if you lacked “normal mental or physical facilities”. The vagueness of this definition is one of the main reasons why an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney might prove critical to your chances.
Texas defines “amusement ride” in a manner that excludes a coin-operated ride stationed in a public place, as long as it normally does not require an operator or supervision (such as a “horsey” ride for small children placed inside a department store).
Operating an amusement ride while intoxicated is considered a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. Like other Class B misdemeanors, the penalty ranges are as follows:
- Imprisonment for up to 180 days, and/or
- A fine of up to $2,000
The minimum jail time is 72 hours; however, if you are caught committing the offense with an open container of alcohol, the minimum jail time is six days.
If an accident occurs during the commission of the offense, your life could become a lot more complicated, especially if someone was seriously injured or killed. You might face crushing civil liability, and you might be charged with intoxication assault or even intoxication manslaughter, depending on the circumstances.
Houston DWI and criminal defense attorney Mario Madrid has enjoyed nearly two decades practicing law. He has served as both a prosecutor and a judge, and he is a member of the National College of DUI Defense Attorneys. He has been certified as a specialist in Criminal Law, an honor enjoyed by only about ten percent of Texas criminal defense lawyers. If you have been arrested for manslaughter in the Houston metro area, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.