Murder Charge for a Fatal DWI?

Posted by Doug Murphy | May 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

If you're involved in a car crash, and someone dies, it can devastate everyone involved. But if the police also accuse you of DWI, you could face serious felony charges, including possible murder or intoxication manslaughter charges. The repercussions of a felony conviction can follow you for the rest of your life, and you need an expert in DWI defense to protect your rights immediately. That's what a Houston man recently discovered after a deadly wreck.

Houston Man Charged with Murder

The Houston man faces murder charges after a March 2023 crash in the 8400 block of North Freeway on North Interstate Highway 45. Police reported that the man was driving a black Honda Crosstour south on the freeway when he struck a concrete pylon on the left side of the road. The impact rolled the car, ejecting two children. The car contained three adults and four children; none of the children were wearing seatbelts. The police found an unused car seat in the trunk of the car. The children ejected from the car, ages one and three, were taken to area hospitals. The one-year-old was later pronounced dead, and the three-year-old was listed in critical condition.

According to police reports, the other two children, ages five and ten, were treated for minor injuries at the hospital and released. But a 29-year-old passenger was transported to the hospital in critical condition. The driver now faces one murder charge for the death of the one-year-old child and two counts of intoxication assault for the serious injuries sustained by the three-year-old and 29-year-old passengers.

Charges That Can Result from a Fatal DWI Crash

If you're involved in a DWI crash, and someone dies, you could face more charges on top of a DWI charge, including felony murder, intoxication manslaughter, and intoxication assault charges.

Driving While Intoxicated

For a first DWI in Texas, the police will typically charge you with a Class B misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to 180 days in jail, a $3,000 court-imposed fine, a mandatory $3,000 administrative fine, a suspended license, and community service. But if you have multiple DWI convictions or other aggravating circumstances, you could face a Class A misdemeanor or a state jail felony charge for DWI. In addition to the DWI charge, you can also face serious charges for a death related to your DWI crash.

Intoxication Assault

In Texas, intoxication assault happens when someone sustains a serious bodily injury in a DWI crash. See Tex. Pen. Code § 49.07 (2007). “Serious bodily injury” means “injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” Intoxication assault is a third-degree felony in our state, punishable by two to ten years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. However, you can face enhanced charges if the victim was a first responder who was on duty or the injury involves permanent disfigurement or impairment.

Intoxication Manslaughter

Intoxication manslaughter happens in Texas if someone dies due to a DWI crash, including a pedestrian, a person in another vehicle, or a passenger in the accused's vehicle.See Tex. Pen. Code § 49.08 (2007). The statute states that someone commits an offense if they:

  1. operate a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and
  2. [are] intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.

Intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony charge in Texas. A conviction is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, you could face first-degree felony charges if a first responder dies as the result of the DWI crash. Whether you face an intoxication manslaughter charge or a murder charge may depend on the circumstances of the case and the severity of the underlying DWI.

Murder in Texas

A murder charge under Texas law involves “intentionally or knowingly” taking the life of another or “intentionally” committing an act that can clearly put someone else's life in danger, resulting in death. A DWI can clearly fit the second part of the murder definition if someone intentionally drinks and drives, given that most reasonable people understand that this could endanger lives. But police are more likely to charge someone accused of DWI with murder if their DWI was already a felony. For example, if the accused in a DWI death already has three DWI convictions, the fourth DWI charge is a felony under Texas law. If the underlying DWI is a felony, the accused may face a murder charge rather than an intoxication manslaughter charge.

Hire an Expert in Texas DWI Defense

The consequences can be severe if you're facing a DWI charge after a serious accident that killed or injured others. You could also face intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter, or murder charges, all felony charges in Texas. You need an expert in Texas DWI and criminal defense law who is also well-versed in handling complex felony cases.

Attorney Doug Murphy is a Texas DWI Defense and Criminal Defense Law expert. He holds Board Certifications in both of these specialties, with decades of experience representing Texans like you, protecting their rights, and zealously representing them in and outside the courtroom. U.S. News and World Report recently named Doug a “Lawyer of the Year” from Best Lawyers in America for Houston DWI defense.

Doug and the experienced defense team at the Doug Murphy Law Firm have been helping people like you accused of DWI and more serious felony charges for decades. They've worked as both prosecutors and defense counsel, so you know they have the insight and knowledge to negotiate the best possible result in your case and, if necessary, zealously defend. You in court. Find out how they can help you. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm at 713-229-8333 or contact them online to schedule your consultation.

About the Author

Doug Murphy

Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and also in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.


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