Intoxication manslaughter is the most serious DWI-related criminal charge in Texas. Under Texas law, intoxication manslaughter, also known as manslaughter DWI, occurs when a driver causes another person’s death by mistake or accident while intoxicated by alcohol or another substance. If you’ve been charged with intoxication manslaughter, you face a 2 to a 20-year jail sentence in Texas. If convicted, you’ll also face financial and professional challenges.
Consult With a Manslaughter DWI Lawyer in Houston
If you’ve been charged with a DWI or intoxication manslaughter in Houston, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. The penalties for intoxication manslaughter include a jail sentence of up to 20 years. Your freedom and future are at stake. The Houston criminal defense lawyers at Ceja Law Firm PLLC have a proven track record of obtaining the best results possible in DWI-related charges. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation to learn how we can protect your rights.
The Crime of Intoxicated Manslaughter in Texas
In intoxication manslaughter cases, the State has to prove that a person operated a motor vehicle in a public place, while intoxicated, and by reason of that intoxication caused the death of another by accident or mistake. Stated differently, it is a DWI that results in death. In Texas, prosecutors will charge a defendant with intoxication manslaughter as a second-degree felony, at a minimum. It can be elevated to a first degree felony under certain circumstances.
Prosecutors must prove every element of the crime of intoxicated manslaughter to succeed in securing a conviction. The four elements of intoxicated manslaughter are as follows:
- The defendant was driving in a public place
- The defendant met the statutory definition for intoxication while he or she was driving
- The defendant’s intoxication caused the motor vehicle accident
- The motor vehicle accident caused one or more fatalities
The crime of intoxicated manslaughter extends beyond motor vehicle drivers. An intoxicated person when operating an aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride can also be convicted of intoxication manslaughter. The prosecution must prove that the defendant was intoxicated, which means that he had a blood alcohol concentration at or above .08 percent when the accident occurred, or did not have the “normal use” of his mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol or some other substance.
The Difference Between Intoxicated Manslaughter and Vehicular Manslaughter
Vehicular manslaughter is similar because both crimes involve the accidental death of a person by vehicle. Intoxication manslaughter requires prosecutors to prove an additional element, that the defendant was intoxicated by alcohol when the accident happened. Prosecutors can prove vehicular manslaughter by demonstrating that the driver’s reckless or negligent actions caused another person’s death. With intoxicated manslaughter charges, prosecutors must prove that the intoxication caused the car accident that resulted in someone’s death.
The Penalties for Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas
The penalties for intoxication assault are much more severe than the penalties for a DWI because the crime involves the death of a person. Defendants convicted of intoxicated manslaughter face a prison sentence between 2 and 20 years. They will also face a fine of up to $10,000.
Legally, it is possible to receive probation in an intoxication manslaughter case, but many judges are extremely reluctant to grant probation. If you are granted probation, the judge generally gets to set the terms of probation. If you’re convicted, you could lose your Texas driver’s license for six months to two years. You also have to pay to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicles and use it every time you would like to drive, if you are permitted to drive at all.
If you are sentenced to prison, the penalties for intoxication manslaughter could include a longer prison sentence when any of the following factors occurred:
- The defendant’s blood alcohol concentration tested at .15 percent or higher
- The defendant has prior DWI convictions on his or her record
- The defendant has a previous conviction for intoxication, assault, or intoxication manslaughter
- A minor child under the age of 15 was in the vehicle at the time of the accident
- The defendant had an open container of alcohol in the vehicle
Killing a First Responder in a DWI Accident in Texas
Several different factors can result in a more severe penalty for intoxication manslaughter. For example, if the intoxicated driver causes an accident that results in a first responder or law enforcement officer’s death, the defendant will face first-degree felony charges. First-degree felony charges are the most serious type of criminal charges in Texas, with a potential jail sentence of up to 99 years and fines up to $10,000.
Defenses Against Manslaughter DWI Charges
As with any crime, the legal defense depends on the facts in the case. However, there are some common legal defenses for manslaughter and DWI-related cases. In DWI cases, typically the intoxication element is what is being disputed. An experienced criminal defense attorney will challenge the officer’s observations, administration of sobriety tests, compliance with law and the validity of breath or blood results. For this reason, it is critical to have an experienced DWI attorney in your corner to defend your intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter case. An experienced DWI attorney should intimately understand the science behind breath and blood testing and be certified to administer police balance tests, in addition to understanding the law of searches and seizures that controls DWI cases.
In an intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault case, an additional area of dispute will be causation – the issue of whether a driver’s intoxication was the result of the death or serious injury. In other words, just because there was a death or a serious accident doesn’t necessarily mean a driver’s intoxication caused it. In order to challenge causation, it will often be necessary to have an accident reconstructionist who can educate a jury about the cause of the death or serious injury, and whether the victim may have actually been at fault.
Contact a Houston Manslaughter DWI Lawyer Today
If you’re convicted of intoxicated manslaughter, you are facing life-altering penalties, including significant jail time. These penalties affect your freedom and your future. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we have an in-depth understanding of the Texas criminal justice system. We will advocate strongly for your interest and work tirelessly on your behalf to achieve the best outcome possible. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.