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Intoxication Manslaughter

A person commits Intoxication Manslaughter when he or she accidentally kills someone as a result of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. In Texas, a felony charge for Intoxication Manslaughter usually arises after a person who the state attorneys believe was “drunk driving” (or on drugs while driving) gets into a car accident that kills the driver’s own passenger or a person in another car. A person can also be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter if he or she killed someone as a result of operating a different kind of vehicle or assembling an amusement park ride while drunk or on drugs.

Have you been charged with Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas? Call criminal defense lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

Drunk driving (technically, “Driving While Intoxicated” or DWI for short) is an entirely separate crime, but the elements of DWI are also found within the Intoxication Manslaughter offense. Intoxication Assault is also very similar to Intoxication Manslaughter, but Intoxication Assault requires only serious bodily injury while Intoxication Manslaughter requires the death of an injured person.

While causing a person’s death is certainly a tragic and traumatic experience on its own, when you are accused of Intoxication Manslaughter, the mandatory prison time that you are also facing can add what seems like an insurmountable amount of pressure. When you are accused, you may feel pressured to plead guilty even if you are not guilty of the charge. But you must resist. Do not plead guilty until you talk to us. It is important that your best interests are protected by an Intoxication Manslaughter attorney during this time. We are dedicated to representing you and obtaining the best outcome for you and your family.

In our experience representing clients accused of Intoxication Manslaughter, we have conducted investigations that have uncovered evidence disproving the state attorneys’ case. While the facts are different in every case, we always conduct thorough investigations and do not rely on the police investigations alone. We regularly encounter extremely poor investigations by the police, and we do not recommend that you let your freedom depend on these substandard government investigations. If you have been arrested for Intoxication Manslaughter, please contact us for a free consultation at (888) 239-9305 or schedule an in-person meeting in our Dallas office by filling out our contact form online.

What is the Intoxication Manslaughter offense?

The Texas offense of Intoxication Manslaughter outlined in Chapter 49.08 of the Texas Penal Code is defined as follows:

(a) A person commits an offense if the person:

(1) operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and

(2) is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.

The state attorneys must prove every element of Intoxication Manslaughter, including “operating a vehicle,” “in a public place,” while “intoxicated,” and “by reason of that intoxication” “causes the death of another,” in order to obtain a conviction. Our attorney challenges the state’s accusations at every step if necessary.

How can I be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter?

You can be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter if the police or the state attorneys believe that you did what the Intoxication Manslaughter offense describes. You can be charged whether or not you are actually guilty of the crime, and you can be charged whether it was your passenger or another person that was killed. You can also be charged even if you were prescribed the substance that the state attorneys allege was causing your intoxication.

What does intoxication mean?

Intoxicated” is defined in Section 49.01(2) of the Texas Penal Code. The state can prove this element by showing that you had above a .08 blood alcohol content level or that you had lost the normal use of mental or physical faculties as a result of the “introduction” into your body of any “substance.” Learn more about the definition of intoxication

What is the difference between a murder charge and an Intoxication Manslaughter charge?

Intoxication Manslaughter is not the same as a murder or a manslaughter charge because the Intoxication Manslaughter charge is specific to accidentally or mistakenly killing someone as a result of driving while intoxicated. Intoxication Manslaughter does not require that you have an intent to kill someone. You can be charged with killing someone under the Intoxication Manslaughter statute for killing them by accident or mistake.

In contrast, to be charged with murder, you have to have the intent to kill a person unless you killed them while committing another felony.

Can a passenger be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter?

A passenger in a vehicle cannot be convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter even if the passenger was intoxicated and being being disruptive to the driver. The reason a passenger cannot be convicted with Intoxication Manslaughter is that the Intoxication Manslaughter statute is only applicable to the person operating the vehicle.

What does it mean to “cause” a death?

The Intoxication Manslaughter statute states that a person operating a vehicle can be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter if they are (1) “intoxicated” and (2) “by reason of that intoxication causes” someone’s death. The state’s attorneys must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intoxication was the reason for the accident. As a result, an Intoxication Manslaughter defense attorney should always conduct a comprehensive investigation into how the accident occurred if this element could be in dispute.

Can I get probation for an Intoxication Manslaughter charge?

If you are charged with Intoxication Manslaughter and are found guilty, you are required to spend a minimum of 120 days in jail.1 You cannot get only probation for an Intoxication Manslaughter conviction.

How much prison time can I get if I am convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter?

Intoxication Manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by a minimum of two years in prison. The maximum punishment for an Intoxication Manslaughter charge is twenty years in prison. Along with imprisonment, the state can also fine you up to $10,000. A conviction of Intoxication Manslaughter can lead to enhanced punishments under Section 49.09 of the Texas Penal Code.

For instance, if two people are killed in one accident, a person can be charged with two counts or charges of Intoxication Manslaughter. Texas law permits a judge to “stack” the punishments so that the person can get a prison sentence that requires serving the sentences consecutively. And if one person is killed and another is injured (which results in an Intoxication Assault charge), the punishments for each charge can be added together in the same way, making the punishments consecutive. However, this is discretionary with the judge.

State attorneys prosecuting an Intoxication Manslaughter charge can also allege that the vehicle was a “deadly weapon.” If a person is convicted with this enhancement, parole eligibility is delayed. In addition it would prohibit a judge from giving the person community supervision.

How can I defend against an Intoxication Manslaughter charge?

The first step to defending yourself against an Intoxication Manslaughter charge is to contact us before cooperating with the police. Our website has information on what to do if you or someone you know has been arrestedfor a charge like Intoxication Manslaughter that involves driving while intoxicated. As an Intoxication Manslaughter defense attorney, our lawyer conducts thorough and sophisticated independent investigations to challenge the police or state’s evidence against you.


Legal References:
1Texas Penal Code Article 42.12 Sec. 13(2)(b) – “A judge granting community supervision to a defendant convicted of an offense under Section 49.08, Penal Code, shall require as a condition of community supervision that the defendant submit to a period of confinement of not less than 120 days.”