Texas takes driving while intoxicated (DWI) seriously. Reducing the number of intoxication-manslaughter and intoxication-assault cases is the primary objective for most DWI laws in Texas. If you find yourself charged with intoxication manslaughter in Houston, prosecutors will likely seek the maximum sentence for your case.
Texas’ intoxication manslaughter penalties include state prison time, hours of community service, license suspension, and hefty fines. Contact a Houston intoxication manslaughter lawyer who will aggressively defend your rights.
What Is DUI Manslaughter in Texas?
While other states refer to the act of killing someone while operating a motor vehicle under the influence as DUI manslaughter, Texas refers to that charge as intoxication manslaughter.
If convicted, the punishment for driving drunk and fatally wounding a person can mean up to 20 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and a felony record.
Texas Penal Code Title 10, chapter 49 defines intoxication as inhibited mental or physical faculties due to alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. It also states a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or higher indicates intoxication.
For a legal consultation with a intoxication manslaughter lawyer serving Houston, call 713-225-1900
The Difference Between Intoxication Manslaughter and Vehicular Manslaughter
All criminal offenses have elements a prosecutor must prove to secure a conviction. These refer to specific facts that must be proven to get a conviction.
For instance, one fact, or element, is not enough. The prosecutor must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. The contrasting of each of these criminal charges are:
Intoxication Manslaughter or DUI Manslaughter
When you accidentally kill someone under the influence of alcohol or dangerous drugs, it’s defined as DUI manslaughter. The elements of intoxication manslaughter include:
- Operating any motor vehicle while intoxicated in a public place.
- This action directly causes the death of another person.
- The death of that person was an accident.
Elements of manslaughter include:
- Reckless conduct including intoxicated driving. Reckless conduct is defined in the Texas Penal Code, Section 6.03.
- This conduct causes the death of another.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Elements of criminally negligent homicide include:
- A person acts with criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is defined in the Texas Penal Code, Section 6.03
- This criminally negligent conduct causes the death of another.
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Intoxication Manslaughter Penalties
The offense of intoxication manslaughter is serious, and the penalties for conviction are severe. As a second-degree felony, its sentence can include the following:
- A prison sentence between two and 20 years
- Fines up to $10,000 (not including an intoxication manslaughter lawyer and court fees, and other DWI costs)
- Ignition interlock device
- Suspended driver’s license between 180 days-2 years
- Community service between 240-800 hours
- Permanent felony conviction
Penalties for Multiple Victims
If more than one person died due to your intoxication manslaughter, you could be charged with one count for every lost life. For example, if your intoxication caused three people to die in a car accident, you can be charged with three counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Each conviction carries a 20-year sentence. This means if you are convicted on three counts, you could face up to 60 years in prison. However, this would only happen if the judge decided to stack the sentences, or run the three sentences consecutively, rather than concurrently. Unlikely but possible.
“Deadly Weapon” Sentence Enhancement
If the prosecution proves your vehicle was used as a “deadly weapon,” an enhancement can be added making the offense aggravated. If you are convicted of an aggravated offense and sentenced to prison, you are not parole-eligible until you have served half of your prison sentence.
This means the parole board will not review your file until 50% of your sentence is served. The prosecution does not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offending vehicle was being used as a deadly weapon. It only takes an affirmative finding by the judge to subject you to this enhanced penalty.
With an experienced Houston intoxication manslaughter lawyer, you may get a probation sentence, but you still must serve a 120-day jail sentence. While a probation sentence is better than a long prison sentence, you will still be required to pay fines, court expenses, and monthly probation fees.
Any probation violation can result in having the motion to revoke probation filed, and your probation could be revoked, meaning you have to complete the sentence in prison.
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Other Intoxication Manslaughter Enhanced Penalties
An intoxication manslaughter offense becomes a first-degree felony if one of the following applies.
- The person killed was an emergency medical service personnel or a firefighter on duty.
- A peace officer or judge was killed in the “actual discharge” of their official duty.
A first-degree felony carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison with a maximum of 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Hiring a Houston DWI attorney with extensive experience can give you a fighting chance in court and protect your rights.
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Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Strategies
You may feel remorse over your car crash manslaughter charges and neglect your legal defense.
However, consider that a conviction not only means the loss of your freedom, your driver’s license, and a hefty fine but may also mean the loss of your professional license (i.e., medical, legal, educational, or real estate). This means loss of income, causing suffering to your family.
In addition, you will have a permanent felony criminal record and a temporary loss of voting rights. Further, some jobs may off limits to you. There is a lot at stake; therefore, secure your future by planning a solid defense strategy with a Houston criminal defense attorney.
A Challenge to BAC tests
Acceptable tests for measuring your BAC include a breathalyzer test, a blood test using a gas chromatograph, or a urine test. Each test must be administered and analyzed correctly.
For just one example, a breathalyzer test must be administered only by a certified breath test operator. This is a law enforcement officer who has been specifically trained and certified to administer the test.
The machine must be properly calibrated with administrative logs kept verifying the date of the last calibration. A proper fifteen-minute observation period must be conducted, ensuring no foreign objects are introduced into the mouth of the defendant.
If the protocols were not followed, the results could be challenged as inadmissible in court. Even if the protocols were followed, there is still a risk of a false positive.
Challenge to Your Intoxication Being the Cause of Death
As mentioned above, for the statute to apply, you must prove that` the drunkenness directly caused the other person’s death, according to Texas Penal Code § 6.04(a).
That means that while you may have been driving under the influence and been involved in an accident that caused another person’s death, you may not be guilty of the serious intoxication manslaughter felony.
For instance, if another person caused the accident and your drunkenness did not contribute to the resulting death, you’re not guilty.
For example, if you are driving the speed limit through a green light and another car blows through a red light, smashing into your vehicle and causing the driver’s death, your intoxication did not cause the other driver’s death.
Each case will depend on the unique applicable facts available.
Contact a Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Attorney
Texas takes intoxication manslaughter charges seriously, and you can be sure the prosecution will try to stick you with the maximum sentence possible. Don’t attempt to defend yourself with inexperienced attorneys or lawyers with little criminal law litigation experience.
Contact our criminal defense lawyers by completing our online form. Our team of intoxication manslaughter attorneys will strive to get you the best possible outcome for your case. Call the Harris County DWI experts at Blass Law to schedule your initial consultation today.
Call or text 713-225-1900 or complete a Case Evaluation form