Texas recognizes many different types of homicide. One category of homicide is reserved for people who kill someone while driving intoxicated. This is called intoxication manslaughter, and it is a very serious crime.
If you killed someone while driving impaired, even accidentally, then you are at a high risk of being charged with intoxication manslaughter. You will need an experienced Collin County criminal defense attorney to help you fight off the charges and obtain a favorable result. For help with your case, please contact an intoxication manslaughter lawyer at Rosenthal & Wadas, PLLC today for a free initial consultation.
How Texas Defines Intoxication Manslaughter
The relevant statute is found at Texas Penal Code, Section 49.08. Under the statute, you can be convicted of intoxication manslaughter if you:
- operate a motor vehicle in public or operate an aircraft, watercraft, or an amusement ride,
- while intoxicated, and
- cause the death of another person by accident or mistake because of your intoxication
Each element must be present to be convicted of this crime. Furthermore, the statute defines “intoxication” as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher or being impaired physically or mentally because of drugs or alcohol.
Consider the following: Karen leaves a bar and gets into her car. While driving home, she hits a pedestrian who she didn’t see when she ran a red light. Karen’s BAC is 0.10 at the time of the accident. In this situation, Karen is probably guilty of intoxication manslaughter.
However, imagine the facts slightly changed: Karen is at a bar, when someone slips a date rape drug into her drink. Feeling groggy, she gets into her car and tries to drive home. In the process, she strikes a pedestrian, killing him. In this situation, Karen might not be responsible for intoxication manslaughter because she did not voluntarily take the drugs. Instead, she took them against her will and without her knowledge.
Punishments for Intoxication Manslaughter
Under the statute, a first offense of intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony. In Texas, you are looking at between two and twenty years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
However, in certain situations, you might receive enhanced penalties. For example, you can be charged with a felony in the first degree if you kill a firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, or police officer. Someone convicted of a first-degree felony faces a minimum of five years in prison and can be fined up to $10,000.
Other penalties can apply, such as the installation of an ignition interlock device and the performance of community service. Defendants might also need to take a state-approved alcohol or drug education class.
Defenses to an Intoxication Manslaughter Charge
If the police have arrested you for intoxication manslaughter, you need to hire a criminal defense attorney immediately. This is a very tough charge to beat, and you can’t expect jurors to have much sympathy for you since someone has died. However, you do have some defenses available, such as:
- You were not intoxicated or high. The statute provides two ways of showing you are intoxicated—a high BAC or evidence that you were impaired. You might argue that you were not impaired in any way and that a breathalyzer or blood test was faulty.
- Someone else is to blame for the death. The fact that you are intoxicated is not enough to prove manslaughter. Instead, the state also needs to show that you were the cause of death. Someone else might be to blame. For example, another vehicle might have swerved in front of you recklessly, causing the collision. Even if you were sober, you might still have hit them.
Remember, the state has the burden of proving each element beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a high standard. You might be able to create doubt as to who is really to blame for the tragic death.
Arrested for Intoxication Manslaughter? Call a Criminal Lawyer in Texas
In the immediate aftermath of a crash, you might be confused about who to turn to. Remember that you are not alone. An arrest is not a conviction, and you do have options other than pleading guilty. However, you need to find an attorney to represent you as quickly as you can.
At Rosenthal & Wadas, we have represented many people accused of manslaughter, and we know how to defend these cases the correct way. For immediate help, please contact us today. One of our Collin County criminal defense lawyers will gladly meet with you to discuss your case and the best path forward.