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When a Passenger Dies Relating to DWI

Posted by Doug Murphy | Jan 13, 2021 | 0 Comments

Motor-vehicle crashes are always unfortunate, no matter the contributing causes or severity of the results. But when a vehicle occupant, whether passenger or driver, dies in the crash, mere misfortune can turn to calamity. And when authorities allege driver intoxication as a contributing cause, the event can feel to the charged driver as if hell has broken loose.

One such late-November 2020 account of a Texas fatal accident alleges that an intoxicated twenty-seven-year-old driver steered her vehicle off a Dallas freeway service road and into a light pole, killing her thirty-three-year-old front-seat passenger. The account reports that when the injured driver's intoxication became apparent at the hospital, police arrested the driver on intoxication-manslaughter charges.

Another report of a recent Texas accident in Houston illustrates a similar kind of DWI-related fatality, in which the allegedly intoxicated driver strikes another vehicle, causing its occupant's death. That report alleges that the intoxicated driver of a truck struck a nineteen-year-old driver's vehicle, ejecting the nineteen-year-old from the vehicle and causing her death. The report further alleges that the truck's intoxicated driver then fled the scene but was promptly apprehended, resulting in DWI and failure-to-stop-and-render-aid charges, pending further potential charges.

DWI-Related Fatalities

When intoxicated driving causes a fatality, Texas law can come down hard on the responsible driver. A defendant operating a vehicle while intoxicated, recklessly causing death, faces an intoxication-manslaughter charge under Texas Penal Code 49.08, punishable by up to ten years of imprisonment. The crime itself is understandable because risks associated with intoxicated driving are both substantial and well known. Texas Penal Code 6.03(c) defines recklessness as being “aware of but consciously disregard[ing] a substantial and unjustifiable risk” and “a gross deviation” from ordinary care. Even when alcohol or drugs are not involved, a fatal accident caused by reckless or criminally negligent driving may support a vehicular-manslaughter or negligent-homicide charge.

Texas law, though, recognizes several defenses to manslaughter crimes including that mental impairment contributed to the death-causing conduct. Just because someone dies in a motor-vehicle accident, doesn't mean that a vehicle driver must pay for it with manslaughter, DWI, or other criminal charges. An intoxication-manslaughter charge like the one reported above doesn't necessarily mean the charge is true. Police make mistakes in identifying vehicle operators and in alleging intoxication evidence. Even breath and blood tests can be grossly inaccurate for any number of different reasons.

Get the Best Representation

Because prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of a DWI crime, including intoxication manslaughter, those facing DWI charges for which some evidence in fact exists can still mount a successful defense. Learn here how nationally recognized Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy helps clients beat unjust DWI charges. And a fatal accident does not make a DWI conviction a foregone conclusion. Nationally recognized DWI attorney Doug Murphy helps clients beat unsupported Texas DWI charges even in fatal-accident cases. You have substantial and enforceable legal rights, no matter how unfortunate or tragic are the results of your accident.

2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year Doug Murphy is available now for your representation. As a Board Certified DWI specialist and one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification, Doug can aggressively defend clients whose DWI charge relates to a fatal accident. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today. Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy is the one to trust to defend DWI charges in a fatal accident.

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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