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February 8, 2013

A needed change

McKee, Gooden working to alter wording for intoxication assault

Athens — Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee will be traveling to Austin next week to lobby for the passage of House Bill 1082. The bill was prompted by McKee.

McKee, in a letter to State Rep. Lance Gooden, requested his help in changing the wording of the current Penal Code. McKee has asked to have the words “intoxication assault causing bodily injury” added to the current law. Gooden filed HB 1082 on Thursday.

According to McKee, in order to charge someone with intoxicated assault, the person must suffer physical pain, illness  or any impairment of physical condition.

Serious bodily injury is currently defined as almost killing someone. McKee, in his words, wants to  “close the bodily injury loop-hole.”

In the letter addressed to Gooden, McKee said, “My office just recently tried a case to a jury where a fireman's leg was run over by an intoxicated driver. Although the fireman was out of commission, and unable to work for many days, we could not prove 'serious' bodily injury, as it is defined by the code and case law. Since we could not prove ‘serious’ bodily injury, the jury had no other option than to convict the defendant of a misdemeanor DWI (driving while intoxicated).”

If the law gets passed, a driver who is intoxicated, and inflicts any degree of physical pain on another, could be charged with intoxicated assault, a state-jail felony that carries a penalty of up to two years in jail.

Currently, if an intoxicated driver injures another person, they could  be charged with a misdemeanor DWI,  which carries  less serious consequences.

Gooden said “I have talked to other district attorneys, and they all feel the same way. I believe this bill will get to the floor, and the House will pass it.” 

McKee will meet with key lawmakers in Austin next week to plead his case.

“It may be a tough year to get this passed, because some lawmakers are trying to lower some offenses this session, because of overcrowding in jails,” he said.

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