On September 3, 2019, a 56-year-old grandfather was killed while changing a flat on the side of a Houston roadway. Now, the man that struck him has been charged with murder.
The accident occurred around 7:20 p.m. on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Jose Almanza had pulled over to the side of 1100 South Loop West near Highway 88. As he was changing the tire, a Ford F-150 operated by John Richard Vasquez veered off the roadway, striking and killing Almanza. According to the police report, Vasquez lost control of his vehicle as he approached Almanza, causing the truck to swerve out of the lane and into the victim.
Police allege that the defendant smelled of alcohol and that tests at the hospital confirmed Vasquez was intoxicated. Prosecutors have now brought murder charges against Vasquez due to his prior DWI convictions. According to a spokesman for the district attorney:
“This is a habitual offender of DWI and anyone, in my mind, who has more than one conviction for a DWI is a ticking time bomb, that is just a matter of time before they get behind the wheel and take one of the people in our community's lives."
Court records reflect multiple prior DWI convictions for Vasquez, making this most recent case a felony DWI charge as well. In fact, Vasquez was on probation for his previous DWI conviction at the time of the crash. While Vasquez is facing murder charges, that is not the case with all DWI-related fatalities.
Intoxication Manslaughter vs. Felony Murder
There are multiple charges in the state of Texas that could result from a DWI fatality. In each of these cases, the consequences are severe. Whether the prosecutor brings charges of intoxication manslaughter or murder depends largely on the driver's criminal history.
Intoxication manslaughter occurs when an intoxicated driver causes the death of another person in a vehicle crash. This charge is specifically related to traffic accidents, as opposed to other circumstances where an intoxicated person causes the death of another. Typically, prosecutors bring charges of intoxication manslaughter when the underlying DWI case is a misdemeanor.
A driver could face murder charges as opposed to intoxication manslaughter charges if the underlying DWI would count as a felony. In Texas, a third or subsequent DWI conviction is a felony. In cases where a driver with two prior DWI convictions causes the death of another person, they could face a charge of felony murder. Felony murder occurs when a person causes the death of another while committing or fleeing after committing a felony.
Discuss your case with a Houston DWI Defense Lawyer Today
While there are important differences between intoxication manslaughter and felony murder charges, it is crucial to understand that both can lead to life-altering consequences. However, there is a big difference between an arrest for felony murder and a conviction. It is possible to beat felony murder charges in some cases, depending on the circumstances.
The first step to fight the charges against you is to speak with an experienced Houston DWI lawyer. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to discuss our options.