When it comes to driving while intoxicated (DWI) crimes, intoxication manslaughter is an offense that goes by a variety of other names, including DWI manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Whatever you call it, intoxication manslaughter is the crime a person is charged with when a person is killed as the result of a person operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
It is critical to understand that intoxication manslaughter is a strict liability offense, which means that a person can be found guilty of committing the crime even if it was an accident or mistake, as intoxication manslaughter involves no “mens rea” (proof of criminal intent) requirement. Intoxication manslaughter asks a jury to find from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that an alleged offender operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated and, because they were intoxicated, caused the death of another person.
Were you arrested or do you think that you might be under investigation for an alleged intoxication manslaughter offense in Dallas? Turn to a lawyer who has successfully defended others in Dallas who were accused of this type of crime, and who has the knowledge and skill to get the best possible outcome on your behalf. Call the Law Office of RJ Harber at (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. We’ll listen to your story, and we’ll be your voice. Our team will do everything in our power to protect you from the allegations you face.
Texas Intoxication Manslaughter Laws
Texas Penal Code § 49.08 establishes that a person commits intoxication manslaughter if they operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated and that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
Under Texas Penal Code § 49.01(2), being intoxicated is defined as either “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body” or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
Intoxication manslaughter also applies to people who operate aircraft, watercraft, or amusement rides while intoxicated, as well as those who assemble mobile amusement rides while intoxicated.
A violation of Texas Penal Code § 49.08 is typically classified as a second-degree felony, but the statute notes that Texas Penal Code § 49.09(b-2) establishes that an intoxication manslaughter crime is a first-degree felony when the alleged offender caused the death of a firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, peace officer, or judge while they were in the actual discharge of an official duty.
Penalties for an Intoxication Manslaughter Conviction
When it is charged as a second-degree felony, an intoxication manslaughter conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the crime is charged as a first-degree felony, then a conviction becomes punishable by 99 years or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Keep in mind that when more than one person is killed in a drunk or drugged driving crash, the alleged offender could face multiple intoxication manslaughter charges. The court will generally have the power to decide whether sentences for convictions in such cases run consecutively (back to back) or concurrently (at the same time).
Another common consequence to an intoxication manslaughter conviction is the likelihood of a driver’s license being suspended, usually for two years. Other possible administrative penalties that courts may issue can include:
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on all vehicles owned or operated by the alleged offender
- Driver Responsibility Surcharges of $1,000 to $2,000 per year for three years imposed by the state Department of Public Safety (DPS)
- Probation and/or community service (up to 1,000 hours)
- Administrative and court fees
- Mandatory attendance at a DWI education class
- Required Drug or Alcohol Assessment
- Random drug or alcohol testing
- Mandatory alcohol or drug treatment program
- SR-22 insurance requirement
Alleged offenders should know that prosecutors are often under intense pressure to seek convictions in these cases that result in steep prison sentences because family members will often insist on harsh consequences for the individual who is believed to be responsible for their loss. Defending against intoxication manslaughter charges can feel like an uphill fight right from the very start. Fortunately, an experienced criminal defense attorney could help build a strong, convincing case on your behalf.
Defending Against Intoxication Manslaughter Charges
One of the primary defenses against an intoxication manslaughter charge will be focusing on calling into question whether or not you were actually intoxicated. Do not assume that just because you provided a breath, blood, or urine sample that indicated that you were over the legal limit that the test result cannot be contested.
Law enforcement officers need to comply with strict rules and regulations when performing these tests and also in maintaining the equipment that such tests are performed on. A variety of common errors or oversights in the basic maintenance of DWI testing equipment can lead to an entire series of tests being declared invalid and inadmissible in court.
Also, keep in mind that intoxication manslaughter requires a prosecutor to prove that an alleged offender’s intoxication directly caused the death of another person. Such a requirement may be far more difficult to satisfy when the person killed was in a vehicle that was operated by a person whose own recklessness or error was the actual cause of an accident instead of an alleged offender’s intoxication.
It is also important for people to know that alleged offenders who have previously been convicted of DWI offenses will very likely have their prior convictions used against them in the pursuit of intoxication manslaughter convictions. Prosecutors may try to argue that these people have engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct.
Contact A Dallas Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Lawyer
If you were arrested or if you are under investigation in the Dallas area for an alleged intoxication manslaughter offense, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an experienced lawyer for help right away.
The Law Office Of RJ Harber has been helping people with all kinds of DWI charges for more than a decade. We understand the stress, strain, and uncertainty that you are likely feeling if you’ve been charged with a crime like intoxication manslaughter, and we’re here to help give you the qualified, compassionate legal counsel you deserve. Yes, these allegations are serious. No, you do not have to accept the charges and the associated consequences without mounting a swift and decisive defense against them. That’s what we’re here to do for you.
Our lawyer can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (214) 389-1189 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation.