In March 2017, 21-year-old Jack Young crashed his pickup truck into a church bus in South Texas. More than a dozen people were killed in the accident. Young was arrested on suspicion of DWI and subsequently charged with multiple counts of intoxication manslaughter. An investigation found that the young driver was driving under the influence of several controlled substances, including marijuana and the prescription sedative clonazepam. Earlier this week, Young was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his role in the fatal accident.
Drugged Driving in Texas
The crime is commonly referred to as “drinking and driving.” However, Texas state DWI law involves much more than the consumption of alcohol. Specifically, it's a crime to operate a motor vehicle if you are intoxicated.
State law defines intoxicated to mean
not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body.
In other words, you can get a DWI if you consume drugs before getting behind the wheel.
Chemical testing determined that Jack Young had both legal (clonazepam) and illegal (marijuana) drugs in his system at the time of the fatal accident. The fact that he was under the influence of legal drugs is irrelevant. State DWI law applies equally to legal and illegal drugs. Either can impair your ability to drive safely.
How Does the State Test for Drugs In a Driver's System?
Breathalyzers are the easiest and fastest way to determine if a driver is intoxicated. However, breathalyzers only test for the presence of alcohol. Breath tests can't be used to identify drugs or controlled substances. As a result, police often rely on DRE experts to determine initially if the driver is intoxicated by drugs and then must rely on more invasive blood tests to confirm it. But all these methods are flawed.
Intoxication manslaughter is the crime of causing a fatal accident while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Jack Young was charged with multiple counts of intoxication manslaughter after the March 2017 accident. Each person killed generally acts as one count of intoxication manslaughter. If anyone was seriously injured by did not die, then Young could have also been charged with intoxication assault.
In Texas, intoxication manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony. Each count is punishable by anywhere between two and twenty years in prison. Other penalties include $10,000 in fines, up to 1,000 hours of community service, and the suspension of driving privileges. When a person is convicted on multiple counts, the penalties can be applied concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (sentences served one after another).
Getting a DWI can affect you for the rest of your life. A strong defense can prevent you from facing harsh consequences. Hiring an experienced attorney to handle your defense will help you secure the best outcome in your case. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to find out how our Houston DWI lawyers can help you protect your future. Call to schedule your free consultation today.