Automobile accidents occur with regular frequency throughout Houston, Texas, and beyond. Most accidents are caused by human error, but no one intends to be in an accident. It happens as a consequence of a mistake made while driving. Most accidents pose no threat to personal bodily injury, only property damage. Sometimes, however, personal bodily injury occurs, and sometimes, the personal injuries are permanent serious bodily injury, or even fatal. When fatalities occur from an auto accident, someone must pay the price for it, and that person is the one blamed for causing the accident. If you were in a car wreck and someone died, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. This is a serious offense that requires immediate attention. Your life and freedom, too, depend on it.
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, we are here to guide you successfully through this process. From the outset, we want you to know that if you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, the charge represents an allegation, not a conviction. You need to contact an experienced DWI and board certified criminal lawyer to immediately begin an investigation. Evidence from a crash scene disappears quickly, and you need a lawyer who can immediately employ an accident reconstructionist to preserve evidence before it is destroyed. It is imperative that a seasoned and experienced DWI lawyer who has successfully handled these cases immediately begin an investigation. The pre-trial investigation phase can reveal the most important evidence demonstrating the causation of the accident was not your fault. You should also know that a conviction cannot happen unless the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime. During pretrial and trial phases of your case, Board certified criminal defense and DWI lawyer Doug Murphy holds the State of Texas and jury accountable to the standard of presumption of innocence and counters the State's arguments with (1) facts; (2) legal theory; and (3) empathy so that reasonable doubt is the only thing left standing.
You should know, also, that Doug Murphy understands that mistakes are made and unintended accidents happen. He also understands that you and your family should not have to suffer for life for this mistake. There is nothing more difficult than a vehicular manslaughter case because no one intended to hurt anyone, and in the end, it's a matter of two separate families devastated by this one accident: (1) the family dealing with the shock of losing a loved one suddenly; and (2) the family in fear of losing a loved one to prison for any number of years. If you want an experienced lawyer and who is proven he will fight for your freedom, then Doug Murphy is the right Board Certified DWI lawyer for your case.
Vehicular Manslaughter: The Law
Texas does not have a statute specific to vehicular manslaughter, rather vehicular manslaughter is an umbrella term used to represent situations when an individual violates a traffic law and unintentionally but recklessly kills another person. According to Tex. Penal Code § 19.04, if a person recklessly causes the death of another person then he or she can be charged with manslaughter. If the act, however, is criminal negligence as opposed to recklessness, Tex. Penal Code § 19.05 may apply, which means if a person causes the death of another person through criminal negligence, then he or she can be charged with criminally negligent homicide. If the act was recklessness while using a vehicle and violating a traffic rule, then the charge will generally be vehicular manslaughter unless it was negligence, then the charge will likely be criminally negligent homicide, or if you were driving while intoxicated, then the likely charge is intoxication manslaughter (Tex. Penal Code § 49.08).
The typical traffic offenses associated with vehicular manslaughter include:
- Hit-and-Run, Tex. Transp. Code 550.023
- Reckless Driving, Tex. Transp. Code § 545.401
- Driving with a Suspended License, Tex. Transp. Code § 521.457
- Racing on a Highway, Tex. Transp. Code § 545.420.
Vehicular manslaughter, however, does not stop with these four or five traffic law violations. Absent a statute to reference, vehicular manslaughter as an umbrella term could cover additional traffic violations that lead to the death(s) of another person(s). For instance, you could also have been driving and on your cell phone at the time of the fatal accident. In such situations, you can be cited for vehicular manslaughter.
Vehicular Manslaughter: The Defense
Vehicular manslaughter is a serious charge that comes with serious prison time, not to mention other consequences (see below). Your defense will be everything to your case. You need a strong, thoughtful defense, and an experienced lawyer to deliver it.
Finding the Right Lawyer in Houston TX
Your criminal defense lawyer must know the law, the procedures, the court system, and your lawyer must be resourceful and offer a comprehensive approach to your defense, using multiple angles to address the issues. Doug Murphy is that lawyer, and he has built a reputation on it.
Many lawyers say they are “experienced,” but Doug Murphy has proven experience. Doug is one of only two lawyers in Texas who is Board Certified in Criminal Law and DWI Defense. The Criminal Law board certification is by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and the DWI Defense board certification is by the National College for DUI Defense, also recognized and accredited by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
If you are facing a charge of vehicular manslaughter associated with driving while intoxicated, the DWI and Criminal Law certifications matter. It is testimony to Doug Murphy's skill and experience. That said, even if you are facing a vehicular manslaughter charge that is not a consequence of driving while intoxicated, it still matters. Doug Murphy is in a bracket that few attorneys possess in the United States: Board certifications in both DWI and criminal defense. In fact, only one other attorney in Texas possesses the same level of experience.
Doug Murphy Law Firm is in Houston, Texas, but represents clients throughout Texas.
Developing a Criminal Defense Strategy in Houston TX
The best defense is a customized defense built on facts, the law, empathy, and -- above all else -- strategy. The primary goal of the defense strategy is holding the State, judge, and jury accountable to the presumption of innocence standard, which means destroying or weakening the State's case against you. The State is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt you are guilty of intoxication manslaughter.
First, we will conduct our own investigation, which means returning to the scene of the accident, interviewing witnesses, reviewing police reports, commissioning an accident reconstructionist report, among many other important tasks. We will then build our case, refute the evidence, file pretrial motions, and negotiate with the prosecution, all on your behalf. We will defend our case from multiple angles, including any of the below strategies, among others -- depending on the unique circumstances of the case.
Absence of a Traffic Violation. The State must prove that you violated a traffic violation and that the violation caused the fatal accident. If you were not driving recklessly, then you likely did not violate a traffic rule. If you were not drinking and driving, not racing on the road, nor driving with a suspended license, then you were not reckless. If you were not committing road rage or not texting a friend at the time of the accident, then you were not reckless. Depending on the specifics of the charge and nature of the circumstances, we will refute this element of the offense.
Absence of Causation. The State does not need to prove intent to kill because, in these situations, there is no intent. The State must, however, prove that your reckless conduct caused the accident that resulted in the fatality. The death could be a passenger (either in your vehicle or another vehicle), another driver, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist. Even if the decedent contributed to the accident in any way, if you also contributed to the accident, then you can be held accountable for it. It must be, at the minimum, suggested that you did not cause the accident that precipitated the fatality, i.e., but for your recklessness or negligence, the accident would have still occurred.
Constitutional Challenges. Many times, law enforcement agents violate the Fourth and/or Fifth Amendments to the Constitution when they arrest a suspect. If constitutional rights were violated, and evidence was obtained through that violation, then it was illegally obtained. Your lawyer will review your case, including any available footage, to determine if any violations were made. If so, then your lawyer can file a Motion to Suppress to exclude the illegally obtained evidence.
Improper Administration or Inaccurate Results of Breath or Blood Test. If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter for driving while intoxicated and causing a fatal accident, or charged alternatively with intoxication manslaughter, we will analyze breath and blood test. procedures and results. Breathalyzers have a reputation for being defective due to poor maintenance. Blood tests, however, are often more controversial because the procedure is more invasive and the blood sample is handled by different people throughout the process. The key issues include the chain of custody and/or preservation of the blood sample, the absence of anticoagulants, and the interpretation and/or extrapolation of the blood test. We look closely at these issues to identify any possible relevance to your case.
Your best defense is a defense strategy based on thorough investigation, smart application of the law and legal theories, and aggressive action.
Vehicular Manslaughter: The Consequences
Without the right attorney and a strategic criminal defense, you will likely suffer severe consequences for it. These consequences go beyond jail time and fees, they will impact the quality of your life for the rest of your life. The following are some of the consequences you can anticipate if you are found guilty.
Court-ordered sentences will likely include either incarceration, fines or both. Other court-ordered penalties will be dependent on the nature and circumstances of your case, e.g. community service, alcohol or drug education programs, or interlock devices.
Prison. If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter, a second degree felony, you can be sentenced between two and 20 years in prison. If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter due to driving with a suspended license without possessing vehicle liability insurance, a Class A misdemeanor, you can be sentenced up to one year in jail. If you are convicted of DWI manslaughter, you can be sentenced between two and 20 years. If the DWI manslaughter offense was enhanced because the victim was a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel, then the prison sentence range increases from five to 99 years.
Fine. You could face a fine up to $10,000. If, however, your conviction is for operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license without possessing vehicle liability insurance, you could face a fine up to $4,000.
Civil Society “Sentence”
A conviction of vehicular manslaughter can affect the quality of your life even after the successful completion of a court-ordered sentence. A conviction means a permanent criminal record, and that has specific consequences in your day-to-day life. As a felon, or former convict,
- You are disenfranchised, and -- upon release from prison -- restoration of voting rights can be difficult.
- You are unable to hold public office.
- You may be ineligible to apply for certain jobs or continue a career in certain professions.
- You may have difficulties with admissions to a school or with financial aid, if you have educational aspirations.
- You may be denied housing at certain associations, residences, etc. because many places restrict or deny residency to ex-felons.
- You -- if you have children but were or are in the process of a divorce -- may find it difficult to arrange child custody or visitation rights.
- Your reputation is impaired, and for some, that can be the worse punishment of all.
As you can see, a vehicular manslaughter case must be fought at all costs, but it must be done with the right attorney who can build a comprehensive defense strategy and implement it successfully on your behalf.
Vehicular Manslaughter Lawyer in Houston, Texas
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, we devote our resources and capabilities to DWI and criminal defense cases. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results. Contact Doug Murphy today to discuss the circumstances of your case.