If you drive while intoxicated and cause the fatality of someone else, it’s called intoxication manslaughter. Outside of Texas, some states refer to this offense as vehicular manslaughter or manslaughter. No matter the name, it is a serious matter, and you need help from a criminal defense attorney.
Texas lawmakers define intoxication manslaughter as follows:
An instance where a person operates a vehicle (car, boat, or plane) in a public space while they’re impaired and, due to the intoxication, kills someone by error or accident.
Intoxication manslaughter extends to the operation of a car, boat, airplane, or even an amusement or carnival ride.
For instance, if a person gets drunk and operates or assembles a ride in an amusement park and someone is killed as a result, the classification of intoxication manslaughter applies.
Intoxication manslaughter may also apply when a person causes the death of another party because they knowingly get drunk or high and then drive.
If this happens, it doesn’t matter if you did not realize or felt like you were intoxicated. For instance, let’s suppose your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was above the legal limit of 0.08. Even if you don’t feel you were intoxicated or don’t even look impaired, you’re still responsible for the crime.
This type of situation compares to being given a drug unknowingly that causes intoxication and leads to somebody’s death. In this case, you’re not guilty of the manslaughter charge.
Both alcohol and illegal drugs are the usual reason for intoxication. However, you can also become impaired if you take prescription medicines or a combination of substances. Intoxication may be gauged through a sobriety field test, drug (urine) test, or blood test. Breathalyzers are sometimes used, but not as frequently as in the past.
When anyone is charged with intoxication manslaughter, the death they cause may be that of another passenger, a driver in another car, pedestrian, bystander, or a cyclist. Death does not have to be immediate and may eventually result from injuries in the wreck.
To win a conviction for manslaughter, a prosecutor must show that the intoxication of the defendant–not some other source–led to the death of another party.
For example, if a driver suddenly swerved to avoid hitting a car driving the wrong way, the prosecution might not be able to show guilt. In this instance, a jury might conclude that the wrong-way driver caused the other party’s death.
Homicide happens when one person kills another person. However, not all homicides are considered unlawful. For instance, if you kill someone else in self-defense, you haven’t committed a crime.
When homicides are illegal, they fall under murder and manslaughter. Murder is considered more serious than manslaughter, so the penalties are far more severe. The main difference between murder and manslaughter is intent.
Murder involves killing someone with malice, malicious intent, or premeditation. On the other hand, manslaughter is explained by an explanation or excuse. Courts consider a defendant less guilty in manslaughter cases as they did not premeditate the crime or behave with malice.
While manslaughter is not considered as serious as murder, it does involve some severe penalties.
In Texas, intoxication manslaughter is typically a second-degree felony and therefore carries prison time of two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalties may be harsher if the victim was an EMS employee (engaged in their duties), firefighter, judge, or police officer.
For example, if you’re drinking and driving and strike a police officer issuing a ticket on the roadside, the punishment escalates to a first-degree felony offense. This type of charge can lead to 5 years to life in prison.
A conviction of intoxication manslaughter may include the following:
Texas does not allow deferred adjudication (probation instead of jail time) in an intoxication manslaughter case. Community supervision, which is similar to probation, may be an alternative. However, you’ll still have to spend 120 days in jail and complete a mandatory educational program to receive this lesser form of punishment.
To defend an intoxication manslaughter charge, a prosecutor does not have to prove any type of intent or gross negligence. Their main goal is to show the defendant was intoxicated and their intoxicated state led to the other party’s death.
To argue the case, a defense lawyer might question the validity of the toxicology reports or take issue with how the defendant was arrested. This might happen in case of an illegal search. The defense lawyer may also point out that another factor led to a victim’s death, such as driver negligence or highway or weather conditions.
In Texas, learn more about your rights if you’ve been arrested for DWI. Contact the Mendoza Law Firm for more details today.
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