Did you know Sullo & Sullo Attorneys have MORE NOT GUILTY JURY VERDICTS at Houston Municipal Court than any other Law Firm (2009-2014, 2017, 2018)?
Of course, no one ever intends to drive while intoxicated, and most all adults know doing so is a bad idea. The dangers to yourself and to others should you drive while intoxicated are serious, and the penalties can be harsh. As an example, a first-offense DWI can cost you as much as $2,000 in fines and fees and you could be without a driver’s license for up to a year. If, however, you have an accident while intoxicated, and if a person or persons lose their lives as a result of that accident, you could be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter. Texas is one of the few states which has created a category of homicide which applies strictly to situations where an intoxicated person operates a motor vehicle and causes the death of another individual.
Other states may identify a similar crime as DUI manslaughter or DUI causing injury or death. While taking the life of another person is known as a homicide, not all homicides are illegal—that is, a killing done in self-defense is not illegal. There are differences between the crimes of murder and manslaughter, in that murder is killing a person with malice, malicious intent or premedication, while the crime of manslaughter carries none of those elements. Therefore, the crime of Intoxication Manslaughter occurs when a person drinks, drives, is involved in an accident, and a death results, but it is not a malicious or premeditated criminal act.
Intoxication Manslaughter Can Also Apply to Driving a Boat, an Airplane, or Operating an Amusement Park Ride - When a person is intoxicated or under the influence of certain drugs, they lack their normal mental and physical abilities. While alcohol and illegal drugs are the substances which cause inebriation or impairment most often, in some cases, over-the-counter drugs can also cause some level of impairment, whether mental, physical, or both. Even if you do not feel drunk or high, you can be legally impaired.
The Texas crime of Intoxication Manslaughter not only applies to a person who drives a vehicle and has an accident which kills another individual, but also when an impaired person is operating an airplane, a boat, and even a carnival or amusement ride. Texas law also provides that an intoxicated person who assembles an amusement park ride that causes another person’s death could be charged with Intoxication Manslaughter.
Intoxication Manslaughter crimes only apply to a voluntary state of intoxication—when you knowingly get drunk or high, then get behind the wheel. If you were unknowingly given a drug which caused you to become intoxicated or high, you would not be responsible for the death or deaths.
Penalties for Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas - The penalties for a conviction of Intoxication Manslaughter—a second-degree felony offense in the state of Texas—can include:
- From 2-20 years in prison;
- A fine as large as $10,000, and
- At least 240 hours of community service, with the possibility of an additional 800 hours.
If there were multiple victims, you could be charged with multiple counts of Intoxication Manslaughter; if convicted on each charge, the judge can “stack” the penalties. As an example, if three people died in the same accident, and the judge sentences you to 10 years, that time could be stacked, requiring you to serve 30 years. A Harris County District Attorney could also charge you with using the vehicle you were driving as a deadly weapon, meaning you could face enhanced sentencing.
Defenses to Intoxication Manslaughter - The primary way to beat an Intoxication Manslaughter charge in the state of Texas is to prove that your intoxicated driving did not directly cause the death or deaths. If there happened to be video footage or eyewitness testimony that establishes this fact it would be extremely helpful to your attorney.
As an example, perhaps you had a couple of drinks and were driving home when a vehicle driving significantly over the speed limit ran a red light, hitting your vehicle. While you were driving while intoxicated—and could even be over the legal limit—your intoxication did not cause the accident, rather the other driver’s reckless driving behaviors caused the accident.
In other words, while you might be guilty of DWI, you would not be guilty of Intoxication Manslaughter. Your attorney could potentially prove you are not guilty of Intoxication Manslaughter by utilizing the Texas “Time of Driving” rules as a method of establishing reasonable doubt regarding whether you were intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Difficulties Associated with Defending Against a Texas Intoxication Manslaughter Charge - It is very likely that the media coverage of a case in which a person or persons were killed and the other driver was intoxicated will exceed most other types of criminal offenses. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as well as other similar groups can push to ensure the inebriated driver is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. A Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI attorney will work hard to help you avoid Harris County jail, when possible. Following your Harris County arrest, while the circumstances of your case will dictate, to some extent, the final outcome, an experienced Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI lawyer will work for lesser charges, a not-guilty verdict or a reduced sentence.
Your Sullo & Sullo Houston DWI criminal defense attorneys may try to establish—through eyewitness testimony or video surveillance—that your impaired driving was not responsible for the death of another person or persons. In this case, you will still face DWI in Texas charges and will continue to rely on the premier Houston criminal defense lawyers at Sullo & Sullo. We believe everyone deserves another chance in life, and that sometimes accidents are just that—accidents. We will aggressively work to minimize your chances of spending time in a Harris County jail and having to deal with Harris County criminal records for years and years to come. Do not wait after being charged with Intoxication Manslaughter or any other type of DWI in Texas charge—contact Sullo & Sullo today.