Drichas v. State
In Drichas v. State, 175 S.W.3d 795 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005), the defendant recklessly pulled out of a parking lot, causing one police officer to slam on his brakes.
He then led law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase for about fifteen miles, running through a stop sign without stopping and disregarding other traffic signs and signals, knocking down a construction barrier, driving for a period on the wrong side of the road, and finally abandoning his vehicle, which continued to roll, unoccupied, eventually running into a parked car. Drichas, 175 S.W.3d at 797-98.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that Drichas' "manner of using his truck posed a danger to pursuing officers and other motorists that was more than simply hypothetical; the danger was real, and the manner in which appellant drove his truck made it capable of causing death or serious bodily injury, particularly where appellant drove on the wrong side of the highway." Id. at 798.
In Drichas, the court took note of one officer's testimony that while he saw Drichas drive on the wrong side of the highway, the officer "never saw any motorists swerve to avoid hitting appellant's truck, and stated that 'we were meeting some traffic somewhere around that point there.'" Drichas, 175 S.W.3d at 798 n.6.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals described the type of evidence needed to support a deadly-weapon finding. See id. at 799.
The Court wrote that a deadly-weapon finding "does not require pursuing police officers or other motorists to be in a zone of danger, take evasive action, or require appellant to intentionally strike another vehicle." Id. "The volume of traffic on the road is relevant only if no traffic exists." Id.
However, capability of causing serious bodily injury or death "is evaluated based on the circumstances that existed at the time of the offense . . . and a deadly weapon finding is appropriate on a sufficient showing of actual danger, such as evidence that another motorist was on the highway at the same time and place as the defendant when the defendant drove in a dangerous manner." Id.
The Court added that it did not mean to suggest a defendant should be charged with using a deadly weapon each time the offense of evading arrest or detention is committed. Id.
Rather, the determination of whether a deadly-weapon finding is justified is a fact-specific inquiry into the circumstances that existed at the time of the offense and the facts will not always support such a finding. See id.