The criminal offense of DWI comes with severe penalties even when no accident occurs. However, when a crash results in the death of another person, the more serious felony offense of vehicular manslaughter can be charged. This charge could change the rest of your life. Penalties could include time in prison, steep fines, and the loss of driving privileges for the rest of your life.
A person can be charged with intoxication manslaughter under Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 49.08(a) if the person is accused of operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
The Penal Code defines “intoxicated” as “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.” Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 49.01(2).
Attorney for Intoxication Manslaughter in San Antonio, TX
If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter, you need an aggressive and focused defense. At Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr, we have the experience to fight these serious charges. Our criminal defense attorneys file and litigate all viable motions to suppress evidence and motions to dismiss the criminal charges. In many of these cases, we are fighting to exclude the results of a blood, breath or urine test.
We use the top experts and accident reconstructionists to examine the evidence and offer testimony at pre-trial hearings or trial. We are dedicated to helping people who are facing difficult charges, and we want to make sure their rights are represented. We service clients throughout Texas.
Call (210) 226-1463 for a free consultation.
Information About Intoxication Manslaughter
- What is Intoxication Manslaughter?
- Causation in Intoxication Manslaughter Cases
- Penalties for DWI Intoxication Manslaughter
- Other Factors in Intoxication Manslaughter Cases in Texas
Intoxication manslaughter can occur if a person who is intoxicated operates a motor vehicle on a public road and causes the death of another person as a result of the intoxication, according to Texas Penal Code § 49.08. This charge is similar to intoxication assault.
A person could be considered intoxicated if a chemical test shows his or her blood alcohol concentration is .08 or higher. If a person’s BAC is above the legal limit, he or she automatically will be arrested, regardless of the to demonstrate normal control over their mental or physical faculties.
The criminal offense of intoxication manslaughter requires proof beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant 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, according to Texas Penal Code Annotated § 49.08.
An important issue in many intoxication manslaughter cases is whether the driver’s intoxication actually caused the death of another. On the issue of criminal causation as it relates to a defendant’s conduct, the law provides:
“A person is criminally responsible if the result would not have occurred but for his conduct, operating either alone or concurrently with another cause, unless the concurrent cause was clearly sufficient to produce the result and the conduct of the actor clearly insufficient,” according to Texas Penal Code Annotated § 6.04(a).
This issue of causation is often called “but for” causation between the conduct of the person accused and the resulting harm. When concurrent causes are present, according to the law, the ‘but for’ requirement is satisfied when:
- The defendant’s conduct is sufficient by itself to have caused the harm
- The defendant’s conduct coupled with another cause is sufficient to have caused the harm
“If an additional cause, other than the defendant’s an accused’s conduct is clearly sufficient by itself to produce the result, the accused’s conduct by itself is clearly insufficient, then the accused cannot be convicted.” The prosecutor for the State of Texas may rely on circumstantial evidence to establish a causal connection. Wooten v. State, 267 S.W.3d 289, 296 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, pet. ref’d).
The offense of intoxication manslaughter normally is charged as a second-degree felony. This could mean a prison sentence between two and 20 years, a fine up to $10,000 or both.
The Texas Penal Code also permits the reclassification of intoxication manslaughter to a first-degree felony when the crash and intoxication caused the death of a police officer, a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel while on duty. A first-degree felony could include a minimum of five years in prison to a maximum of 99 years or life imprisonment, a fine up to $10,000 or both.
Additionally, if a person is convicted of intoxication manslaughter, he or she also could have to install an interlock device, perform community service up to 1,000 hours, pay court costs and fees and complete an approved alcohol or drug education program.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue that the prosecution has not met this burden based on several factors:
- The driver’s appearance: In order to establish DWI, the police officers often will testify to observable symptoms of intoxication exhibited during the crash investigation. These clues of impairment can include slurred or mumbled speech, red or bloodshot eyes, excessive perspiration and slow reaction time. Although these are commonly cited signs of intoxication, these clues can also be explained by a variety of other factors such as allergies, illness, nervousness and exhaustion. An experienced DWI defense attorney can argue these symptoms were simply the product of an existing physical condition and not an indication of intoxicated from alcohol or impaired by any controlled substance.
- Standardized Field Sobriety Exercises (SFSE): Field sobriety exercises were designed to help officers articulate their reasons for believing the driver was intoxicated. Many believe the exercises are designed to fail. On the other hand, the prosecutor will argue the exercises were designed to reveal how the presence of drugs or alcohol in the system impairs the driver’s motor functions and ability to drive safely. To a large extent, these exercises depend on the driver’s individual balance, agility, coordination and memory. Individuals with physical or mental disabilities are unfairly judged by a standard held to those who are more capable of performing the exercises. It may even be the case that the driver would normally be able to perform these tests, but something unrelated to intoxication made it difficult or impossible to perform the exercises correctly, such as an injury from the crash.
- Chemical test results: During an intoxication manslaughter investigation, the arresting officer will attempt to obtain a blood test, urine test or breath test to determine the driver’s alcohol content. When another person is injured in the crash, the blood test is the most common type of test used. The tests are not 100 percent accurate, and results can vary due to a variety of factors. An attorney can raise many of these concerns on your behalf and show the judge and jury that such evidence is not conclusive of intoxication.
Finding a Lawyer for Intoxication Manslaughter Defense in Bexar County
If you have been arrested or charged with intoxication manslaughter or another type of DWI crime in San Antonio, contact a drunk driving defense attorney at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr. The criminal defense attorneys at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr fight to protect clients charged with serious felony DWI-related offenses.
We offer a free initial consultation and a case analysis to every prospective client. Our firm gauges our fees to the needs of our clients.
Call (210) 226-1463 today.
This article was last updated on Friday, September 22, 2017.