Intoxication manslaughter (known as DUI manslaughter in some jurisdictions) is one of the most serious offenses in Texas law, combining the legal consequences of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and causing a fatal accident. The ramifications are severe when impaired driving leads to the loss of another person’s life. Those accused of intoxication manslaughter in Texas are up against a minefield of legal obstacles and potential penalties, facing the loss of their driver’s licenses, massive fines, and even years behind bars.
In the wake of such an accusation, individuals find themselves grappling with legal complexities and personal challenges, such as the stigma of a criminal record and the loss of employment opportunities, which can shape their futures in profound ways. If you’ve been accused of intoxication manslaughter in Austin, protecting your freedom and preserving your rights demands a strategic, informed, and vigorous defense. That’s where the services of a dedicated intoxication manslaughter lawyer becomes an invaluable resource.
At the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, our client-focused attorneys possess the skill, experience, and understanding of intoxication manslaughter cases to help you effectively fight the charges against you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation about your case.
To understand intoxication manslaughter, it’s necessary to highlight the distinction between manslaughter and other forms of homicide. “Manslaughter” is a legal term that refers to the unlawful killing of another person without premeditation or malice. It falls under the broader category of homicide, which encompasses all instances where one person causes the death of another. However, unlike murder, which involves intentional killing with malice or premeditation, manslaughter typically involves situations where the killing was unintended but still resulted from negligence, recklessness, or some other unlawful act.
In this context, “intoxication manslaughter” emerges as a unique category. Texas law defines this as an offense that occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated and, as a result, unintentionally causes the death of another person. Texas holds a concrete position regarding intoxication manslaughter and related offenses.
Unlike many other states, Texas recognizes and specifically defines the offense of intoxication manslaughter as its distinctive legal category. Additionally, Texas has stringent DWI laws and penalties, which can result in severe consequences for individuals convicted of manslaughter.
Determining when an accident qualifies as intoxication manslaughter involves an examination of certain legal criteria. The presence or absence of these criteria can alter the charge entirely, as well as the potential penalties that may result. For an accident to be considered intoxication manslaughter, several elements must be established:
intoxication manslaughter charges in Texas are classified based on the severity of the offense and certain specific factors. These classifications determine the potential penalties an individual may face if convicted. The state recognizes first-degree and second-degree felonies for intoxication manslaughter.
Most intoxication manslaughter charges are generally considered second-degree felonies. This classification can lead to penalties such as imprisonment ranging from 2 to 20 years and fines of up to $10,000 if convicted. However, certain circumstances can elevate the charge to a first-degree felony. For instance, if the intoxicated driver causes the death of a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services technician on duty during the accident, the charge can be escalated to a first-degree felony. This more severe classification carries even heftier penalties, including a prison sentence ranging from 5 years to life.
In addition to prison sentences and fines, being convicted of intoxication manslaughter almost always means the loss of your driver’s license. This can range from 180 days to two-year license suspensions. Those convicted of intoxication manslaughter may also be subject to community service obligations ranging from 240 to 850 hours.
In cases of intoxication manslaughter in Texas, the legal consequences are not always limited to license restrictions, prison time, and fines. When someone is convicted of intoxication manslaughter in Texas, the court often orders the defendant to pay the victim’s family restitution. This process aims to compensate them for various expenses, with funeral costs being a primary consideration. However, the convicted individual may also be required to cover other related expenses, such as medical bills incurred before the victim’s passing, counseling for surviving family members, and any additional financial hardships resulting from the loss.
But the possible financial repercussions don’t end there. Families of victims in intoxication manslaughter cases can pursue wrongful death claims against the defendant, even if they have already received restitution. While restitution is typically ordered as part of the criminal proceedings and is intended to compensate the victim’s family for specific financial expenses resulting from the crime, a wrongful death claim is a separate civil action that seeks compensation for a broader range of damages, such as pain and suffering.
The multi-faceted landscape of intoxication manslaughter cases provides many avenues for the Texas legal system to be wielded to financially punish those convicted. With the potential for enormous fines, restitution, and wrongful death claims, defendants must consider the massive financial implications and enlist the help of a knowledgeable intoxication manslaughter attorney to protect their futures.
The sentencing for intoxication manslaughter cases in Texas can vary based on a range of factors that are taken into consideration by the legal system. These elements can significantly influence the severity of the penalties imposed on the convicted individual. Some of the factors that can affect the sentence of a DWI conviction include:
Prior convictions for DWI-related offenses can substantially impact sentencing. Repeat offenders may face more severe penalties, including longer prison sentences and higher fines.
The identity and status of the victim can also play a role in sentencing. As mentioned, if the victim is a first responder on duty, such as a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical technician, the offense may be elevated to a first-degree felony, leading to even harsher penalties.
The specific circumstances surrounding the accident can also be considered. Factors such as the degree of impact, the destruction of property, and whether the accident occurred in a school or construction zone can influence the sentencing decision.
If there were minors present in the vehicle during the accident, the penalties may be enhanced. This includes minor passengers in the impaired driver’s car and minor passengers in any other vehicles involved in the accident.
The defendant’s BAC at the time of the accident is a major factor. Higher BAC levels may result in steeper penalties, as they indicate a more significant level of impairment.
Certain types of drugs are treated with greater gravity in intoxication manslaughter cases. The use of illegal substances, such as narcotics, stimulants, or hallucinogens, can lead to elevated charges and more severe penalties due to the criminal nature of the substance involved.
Demonstrating cooperation with law enforcement, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and showing remorse can positively impact sentencing.
The degree of negligence or recklessness demonstrated by the defendant can influence the severity of the penalties. More egregious cases of reckless driving or disregard for the safety of others can lead to harsher sentencing.
Additional circumstances, such as whether the defendant fled the scene, had a suspended license, or caused multiple injuries, can also impact the sentencing decision.
When confronted with charges of intoxication manslaughter, establishing a robust defense strategy becomes imperative in contesting the accusations against you and striving for an optimal resolution. An adept defense lawyer can provide the legal assistance you need. At the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, our dedicated intoxication manslaughter lawyers have extensive experience with these types of cases and can implement a variety of strategies to strengthen your defense and protect your best interests throughout the legal process:
We will thoroughly examine the details of the client’s case and develop effective strategies to combat the evidence against them. Any inaccuracies or mishandling of evidence can be grounds for challenging its validity.
In some cases, it may be possible to argue that our client’s impairment did not contribute to the accident. This approach shows that the incident occurred independently of the defendant’s impairment.
If other contributing factors played a significant role in the accident, it could affect the manslaughter charge. This line of defense could involve presenting evidence that the accident resulted from external elements like road conditions or the actions of other drivers.
Field sobriety tests and chemical tests are not foolproof. Our attorneys can scrutinize the validity of these tests, including whether they were administered correctly or if any external factors affected the results.
If the defendant has medical conditions that could mimic signs of impairment, we may be able to argue that the defendant’s behavior was a result of these conditions rather than intoxication.
If the defendant’s Miranda rights were violated during arrest or questioning, any statements made during that time may be inadmissible as evidence. Our attorneys will ensure that these statements cannot be used against our client.
If law enforcement did not have probable cause or a valid reason for pulling over the defendant or conducting a search, we could ensure that any evidence obtained from an illegal stop is suppressed.
Discrepancies in eyewitness accounts or other testimonies can be used to challenge the prosecution’s version of events. Our attorneys will work diligently to uncover inconsistencies and use them to break down the prosecution’s case against you.
Sometimes, a plea deal might be a viable strategy. Through skillful negotiation, our experienced intoxication manslaughter lawyers can advocate for reducing charges to a lesser offense with comparatively milder penalties.
If you or a loved one faces the daunting task of challenging an intoxication manslaughter charge, your lifeline is a phone call away. At the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, our experienced manslaughter attorneys understand the complex circumstances that can lead to a fatal accident and handle our client’s cases with compassion and unwavering advocacy. We also know that a charge does not automatically mean a person is guilty of the crime, and we consistently uphold the principle of presumed innocence.
Your first step towards a stronger defense and a more secure future begins with our free consultation. Our Austin attorneys will carefully evaluate the specifics of your case, listen to your concerns, and offer clear insights into your legal options. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to assert their rights and secure the best possible outcome, and we are committed to fighting for you every step of the way. Call 512-764-5899 or complete our contact form to seek the justice you deserve.
“When you hire me, you get me. Not my admin, not my associates. I’ll meet, talk, text, and work with you directly to get you the best possible outcome in your case.”
David D. White
Criminal Defense Lawyer
David is both professional and easy to interact with. I cannot say enough good things about his ability to provide the best service possible. If I had another legal matter in the future I would definitely use David again. I highly recommend him.