Earlier this month, a 24-year-old Texas man found himself facing life-altering criminal charges in the wake of a head-on collision in Beaumont, TX—one that caused serious injury and at least one fatality. According to 12News, the defendant driver veered his car into oncoming traffic on the evening of October 3, striking another vehicle head-on. One of the occupants of the other vehicle was pronounced dead; the other sustained serious injuries. Police have charged the man with one count of intoxication manslaughter and one count of intoxication assault. If convicted, he could face upwards of 20 years in prison for the intoxication manslaughter charge alone.
This story shines a spotlight on a DWI offense unique to the State of Texas: intoxication manslaughter. Every state has some method of enhancing drunk driving penalties when death or injury is involved, but only Texas has created a specific charge for it. As the name suggests, intoxication manslaughter refers to causing the death of another individual as a direct result of driving while intoxicated. It is a second-degree felony that carries a penalty of between 2-20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
What Is at Stake
Being charged with intoxication manslaughter can be both disruptive and devastating, to say the least. Not only are you potentially dealing personally with the aftermath of a traumatic event, one resulting in a death that you may or may not have caused; but the allegation itself can deeply affect your whole family, your career, and quite possibly your freedom if convicted.
Defending Against Intoxication Manslaughter Charges
What makes intoxication manslaughter particularly challenging to defend is that the prosecution has a relatively low burden of proof. Since manslaughter is death through recklessness rather than premeditated murder, prosecutors do not have to establish intent in order to convict you. They only have to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a) your reckless performance behind the wheel resulted in someone's death; and b) you were legally intoxicated at the time the alleged manslaughter occurred.
That being said, being charged with this crime does not guarantee that you will be convicted, nor does it mean you're actually guilty. Quite often, there are extenuating circumstances that may prove your innocence or invalidate the charges. These may include:
- Additional possible causes of the fatality. For example, a forensic investigation might uncover errors on the part of the other driver, which could have played a role in the fatality, showing a lack of causation on your part.
- Denial of due process. If law enforcement violated your constitutional rights at any point during their investigation, the case against you might be invalid.
- Improper conducting of tests. If field sobriety tests and/or blood tests were administered improperly, they might produce a “false positive,” calling into question whether you were, in fact, legally impaired.
With so much at stake for your future, it's crucial to hire a DWI defense attorney who has specific experience with intoxication manslaughter cases—someone who can dive into the complexities and nuances of the situation, perform thorough investigations, and fight to ensure your rights are protected. Doug Murphy is an award-winning attorney who was recently named a 2021 Lawyer of the Year in Houston for DWI defense by US News & World Report. As a Texas Board Certified DWI specialist in Texas, Mr. Murphy has the skill, knowledge, and expertise to help you determine the best path forward. Contact him today for a free case evaluation.