According to Texas’ Department of Transportation, every 20 minutes there is a car accident involving alcohol in which someone is either injured or killed. In 2017, there were about 944 drivers involved in a fatal car accident in which alcohol was a major factor, and these drivers ranged in age and location. Driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous and may potentially lead to serious accidents, injuries, and even deaths. No matter where or who you are, driving a vehicle while intoxicated can have serious consequences not just for yourself, but for everyone else around you. A DWI intoxication manslaughter is one of the most serious types of charges that may occur if you are under the influence while driving. Even though most of the time this offense tends to be an accident, it is still serious since making the choice of driving while drunk can be seen as an intentional dangerous act. In Texas, the DWI penalties alone are pretty severe. So, penalties and punishments for a DWI intoxication manslaughter are exponentially greater and they can have a lasting impact on your life.
In any case, if you or someone you know is facing a DWI intoxication manslaughter offense, you can still get help. Receiving this type of charge can be frightening and leave you feeling helpless. However, at Andrew Deegan DWI Attorney at Law, we have the experience and expertise to provide you with legal assistance during this time. This is serious and it requires the help of top-notch attorneys. Together, we may be able to prepare a defense for your case and fight against the charges. As one of the top law firms in the Fort Worth area, our team’s promise is to provide every client with the best help they can get—no matter what situation they may find themselves.
What is DWI?
Under Texas Penal Code § 49.04, a DWI stands for ‘driving while intoxicated.’ This is a type of crime an individual commits if he or she drives a motor vehicle while also intoxicated by alcohol in a public place. In a more simplistic way, this means that you have been driving while drunk. This is a serious type of offense in Texas. This type of action can have a significant impact on the safety of, not only yourself but of everyone else on the roadways.
Yet again, this crime is described as driving under the influence of alcohol. Usually, you may be charged with this type of offense if you have been pulled over by an officer. In most cases, they may test your blood alcohol concentration level from your breath, your blood, or, even, from your urine. In Texas, if your BAC is 0.15 or greater, then you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. However, it is important to know that you will still be charged with a Class-B misdemeanor DWI even if your BAC was below this level. In other words, it is strictly prohibited to drive while intoxicated.
Besides a simple DWI offense, there are many other offenses that may arise depending on the circumstances of the situation. A DWI may just be one offense on top of others depending on what has occurred. A DWI intoxication manslaughter offense is one of the most serious types of offense you may face as it describes a significant criminal activity in the state of Texas.
DWI Intoxication Manslaughter
A DWI intoxication manslaughter offense is one of the most serious types of crimes you may face. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.08, you commit this crime if (1) you operate a motor vehicle or any other type of vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol and (2) this intoxication causes the death of another individual by accident. This is a serious matter since it involves the death of another individual due to your intoxicated state. While under the influence, your reactions are slower, you become less aware and more negligent on the road—a recipe for danger in any situation. While intoxicated, not only are other drivers in danger, but also any pedestrians that may be present.
- Tom was at his friend’s birthday party all night. Once the party was winding down, he decided to drive back home even though he had plenty to drink the whole night and was highly intoxicated. While driving along a major street, Tom swerved into another vehicle and pushed them off the road. As a result, the other driver died due to the accident.
It is also important to know that you may still be charged with intoxicated manslaughter even if you were not technically the one at fault during the incident. Even though in cases of this offense, intoxicated manslaughter is different from a homicide offense. In cases of homicide, there needs to be a motive, premeditation, and conscious action to kill or murder another individual. With intoxicated manslaughter, these elements are not necessary. The defendant only needs to have acted with ‘criminal negligence.’ This indicates any type of reckless behavior that may put other individuals in danger, such as driving a vehicle while intoxicated. In this way, the act does not have to be intentional. In most cases, intoxicated manslaughter usually occurs by accident.
When it comes to intoxicated manslaughter, there may be a few important elements that that must be met when to properly charged anyone with this offense. These include the following elements:
- You were in control of a vehicle
- You acted with criminal negligence (such as driving a vehicle while intoxicated)
- Another individual died as a result of your criminal negligence.
If you have committed these actions, you may be charged with a DWI intoxicated manslaughter in Texas. As a result, you may face harsh penalties and punishments.
Sentences and Punishments for a DWI Intoxication Manslaughter
Once you are arrested and charged with a DWI intoxication manslaughter, you could potentially face certain penalties and punishments in the court of law. It is important to note that these penalties and punishments can be increased depending on certain circumstance and your previous criminal history. DWI intoxication manslaughter penalties and punishments are much more severe than a standard DWI offense due to the nature of the crime. In Texas, this offense is treated as a second-degree felony. If convicted, these types of crimes are usually punished with the following:
- A sentence of 2 to 20 years in state prison, and
- A maximum $10,000 fine.
Besides these punishments, you may be made to serve up to 240 hours of community service, and an additional 800 hours at the discretion of the state. Also, as described under Texas Penal Code § 49.065, if the individual who died in the accident was an emergency medical services personnel or a firefighter, the offense will be upgrading to a first-degree felony. This usually indicates an accident involving an ambulance or a firetruck. This is even more severe and the penalties include:
- A sentence of 5 to 99 years or life in state prison, and
- A maximum $10,000 fine.
With this type of offense, a judge may look at a couple of factors to determine the amount of time you should spend in prison. They may look at your previously criminal history if any. They may also look at the amount of negligence you acted with, how intoxicated you were, and more details to determine the prison sentence.
Common Defenses for a DWI Intoxication Manslaughter Offense
As described before, there are certain elements needed in order to be charged and convicted of an intoxicated manslaughter offense. These include:
- You were operating a vehicle of some type,
- You acted with criminal negligence (such as driving while intoxicated), and
- Another individual died due to your criminal negligence.
In any court of law, these are the elements that must be proven in order to be convicted of the crime. If you can disprove any of these with a defense built along with a qualified attorney, then the charges could possibly be dropped. In some cases, a defense could disprove intoxicated manslaughter but can still lead to a lighter type of offense. There are a couple of common types of defenses that may be used to drop the charges. However, everyone’s case is unique and has different circumstances. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal attorney to find a defense that will work best for you and your case.
Not Directly Responsible for the Death
One of the most common types of defenses in these cases includes showing that you were not actually directly responsible for another individual’s death. In these types of situations, your intoxicated state needs to not have been a factor in the death of another person. Usually, an attorney may show this by presenting hard evidence such as video footage or testimony from an eyewitness at the scene of the incident. Also, this may be done by establishing reasonable doubt around any circumstances regarding the accident.
- While driving, Lana had a BAC of 0.4. As she was making her way back home, another car ran a red light as she was crossing the intersection. As a result, the two vehicles collide, and the other driver dies from his injuries.
In the above situation, Lana does not fulfill the elements needed to be charged with intoxicated manslaughter. She may still be faced with a standard DWI since she was still intoxicated; however, the death of the other individual was not a direct result of her intoxicated state. In this situation, the other individual is the one who was actually responsible for the accident. This may be shown through traffic footage and more depending on the situation. With this evidence, intoxicated manslaughter may be dropped as a result.
Not Intoxicated at the Time of the Accident
Another element that must be proven in the court of law is that you were intoxicated at the time of the accident. The death needs to be a result of your intoxicated state. However, if you can prove that you were not actually intoxicated at the time of the accident or at the scene, then you cannot be charged with intoxicated manslaughter. Often times, this type of defense is more complicated and difficult to utilize and you would need an experienced attorney. This defense may be shown by proving that the tests used to determine BAC were actually faulty at the scene or that they showed inaccurate readings. If you can prove that you were not actually intoxicated at the time of the accident, then you may not be charged with this offense. This would disprove a major element of these type of criminal offense. However, depending on the circumstances of the accident and if anyone died or was injured, you may still face other charges. In some cases, these other charges may be less serious and carry less severe punishments and penalties.
Related and Similar Charges to a DWI Intoxication Manslaughter
When it comes to a DWI intoxication manslaughter offense, there may be related and similar charges you may face depending on the circumstances and details. In some cases, you may be given another type of offense if an intoxicated manslaughter offense cannot be proven. Also, you may even face more related offenses on top of an intoxicated manslaughter offense depending on the details of the accident. Commonly related offenses include a DWI, vehicle manslaughter, reckless driving, and a hit and run.
Once again, under Texas Penal Code § 49.04, a DWI is a crime in which you driving while intoxicated with alcohol. This is the most basic of DWI types of offenses. This includes operating any type of vehicle within a public area. In cases in which the death of another individual was not a direct result of your intoxicated state, you could still be charged with a DWI offense.
Under Texas laws, this is a class-B type of misdemeanor. This comes with a minimum term of confinement of seventy-two hours (6 days) and a maximum term of 180 days. Also, this offense may also come with a maximum $2,000 fine.
Under Texas Penal Code § 19.04, if a person causes the death of another individual due to reckless negligence, they may be charged with manslaughter. If the use of a vehicle is involved, this is often referred to as vehicular manslaughter. This type of offense may be charged whether you are intoxicated or not. Again, this may be charged instead of an intoxicated manslaughter offense if it cannot be proven that you were actually intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Due to the serious nature of this crime, it is a second-degree felony in the state of Texas. Similar to an intoxicated manslaughter offense, this could potentially lead to severe punishments including a possible 2 to 20 years sentence in state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Under Texas Penal Code § 545.401, if a person operates a vehicle with a willful disregard for the safety of others and their property, they may be charged with a reckless driving offense. Once again, you may still be charged with this offense whether you were actually intoxicated or not. Also, to be charged with this type of offense, it just needs to be apparent that you were operating any vehicle dangerously. There does not have to be any type of accident or injury involved.
In Texas, this is considered to be a misdemeanor offense. The possible punishments and penalties include up to thirty (30) days in county jail, a maximum fine of $200, or both the jail time and fine.
Under Texas Penal Code § 49.07, if you are in control of a motor vehicle with reckless negligence while intoxicated with alcohol and it causes another person to suffer from serious bodily injuries, then you may be charged with intoxication assault. This is very similar to an intoxication manslaughter offense except that the victim of the crime does not die as a result of the accident. Rather, they only sustain serious injuries. In Texas, ‘serious bodily injury’ is considered to be an injury that could potentially lead to death. This also includes injuries that create a permanent disfigurement or impairment or loss of any bodily function or organ.
This type of criminal offense is usually charged as a felony in the third degree. If convicted of this crime, you could potentially face a sentence of 2 to 10 years in state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Certain circumstances may even elevate the crime to a second-degree felony.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Hit and Run)
Lastly, under Texas Penal Code § 550.021, you are required to follow a certain procedure should you find yourself in any type of car accident, especially if it involves death or injury of any sort. These steps include stopping immediately, or as soon as possible, after an accident. This can mean staying on the scene of the incident or returning to the scene if you did not stop in the first place. Also, you should stop and stay at the scene without unnecessarily blocking any traffic. You should remain at the scene of the incident until all required information has been exchanged between you and the other individual. You may also have to remain until you are permitted to do so by a law enforcement officer.
It is considered to be a crime to leave the scene of an accident without following this procedure. If you fail to do these steps after getting into an accident, then you can be charged with a hit and run offense which is considered to be a felony in the third-degree in Texas. The punishments for this include a sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. If the accident causes another person to die, it is then elevated to a felony in the second degree. Under this type of felony offense, you could potentially be given a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 maximum penalty fine.
Finding a Qualified DWI Attorney Near Me
A DWI intoxication manslaughter offense is one of the most serious types of offenses you could potentially face if you have been driving while under the influence of alcohol. However, this is because the crime describes a highly serious act in which another individual has died as a result of the driver’s negligence. In the state of Texas, this is a highly serious criminal offense—even if it was an accident. Because of the major impact this type of action may have, it may lead to serious penalties and punishments. Also, these penalties may even be increased depending on certain circumstances. This can have a major, lasting impact on the rest of your life. Even if no one was injured or killed as a result of intoxicated driving, you may still be charged with a standard DWI offense since it is still illegal to drive or operate a vehicle while intoxicated.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI intoxicated manslaughter offense, it can be a frightening and stressful experience. When it comes to figuring out what to do next, most people may be confused and feel overwhelmed by the whole legal experience—even more so if this is your first time in which you have been charged with any criminal offense. At Andrew Deegan DWI Attorney at Law, we are highly experienced with cases involving a DWI intoxicated manslaughter. We are prepared to help and assist any client who may find themselves in this situation. If you require any type of assistance with your case, feel free to contact our firm today at 817-470-2128. Our team is standing by to hear from you about your case. We aim to provide anyone in the Fort Worth area with the help they need. The sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can begin building a defense for your case and fight against your charge.