Recently, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst charged the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice to consider whether probation for intoxication manslaughter should be available to adults and juveniles if they are convicted. Dewhurst also requested that the committee review sentences for intoxication manslaughter to ensure that punishment levels are appropriate to deter the incidence of DWI.

Texas Senate Will Look at Doing Away with Probation For Intoxication Manslaughter in 2015

All of this, of course, is in response to the recent case of Ethan Couch, who received probation for intoxication manslaughter after pleading guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. In this controversial case that has been closely followed around the country, Couch crashed his F-350 pickup truck into a stalled car in Burleson last June. Testimony elicited from his trial gave us the controversial buzzword “affluenza,” a condition which Couch’s attorneys argued may have been a contributing factor to the accident. A Fort Worth juvenile-court judge sentenced Couch to 10 years of probation for intoxication manslaughter.

Deferred Adjudication Probation Has Not Been Available for any DWI Conviction Since 1984

Probation, in Texas, is called community supervision, meaning that instead of jail or prison, a defendant can remain in the community under the supervision of the court. The length of the supervision can be up to two years for a misdemeanor and ten years for a felony. There are two kinds of community supervision: deferred adjudication and regular community supervision—often referred to as straight probation. Deferred adjudication, generally offered to first-time offenders, will not result in a conviction if the term is completed successfully. However, deferred adjudication has not been available for DWI since 1984.

DWI is a misdemeanor, and the only one, where deferred adjudication is not available. Intoxication manslaughter is a second degree felony, which means that if found guilty and convicted, a jail sentence between 2 and 20 years can be prescribed. Intoxication assault is a third degree felony, which has the sentencing ability ranging from 2 to 10 years.

The earliest that the Texas Senate could consider probation for intoxication manslaughter is January 2015.