Intoxication Manslaughter is basically a regular DWI with an additional element, that the defendant’s intoxication caused the death of another. It’s a 2nd-degree felony, which means a possible 2-20 year TDC sentence and a fine of up to $10,000.
Let’s look at Texas Penal Code 49.08-
Sec. 49.08. INTOXICATION MANSLAUGHTER. (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.
(b) Except as provided by Section 49.09, an offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
Defending Intoxication Manslaughter cases-
Intoxication Manslaughter cases are incredibly difficult to defend against in Texas. It’s important to hire the best local firm you can afford, these are almost always too much work a solo-defense lawyer. Most criminal defense lawyers in Texas are solos and work alone. Solos can do great work on the right cases, but if you want to avoid prison, get a team of lawyers in at least a small firm.
Go To Rehab- NOW
Your lawyer’s first job is to evaluate you, the client. The best thing a client can do when arrested for intoxication manslaughter is to get into rehab, and get an alcohol monitor of some kind to prove they have quit drinking.
Going to rehab won’t make you look guilty, and your lawyer will explain how to answer questions about the case and what to not talk about in treatment. If you start treatment right after the arrest it will allow your lawyer to focus on the legal defense of the case, knowing that the client is doing everything they can to help themselves.
Intoxication Manslaughter cases can take 1-2 years before at trial of hearing. And if you use that time in treatment you will be ready if you end up needing to show you’ve changed and addressed your drinking problem. It is always better if you began rehab right after the arrest. Think about facing a judge or jury and asking for a lenient sentence, when the family of the deceased is asking for 20 years. You will wish you had spent the time in therapy and recovery. Otherwise, it will appear self-serving if you just say you’ve changed and stopped drinking without any evidence to back up your claims from treatment providers and interlock machines etc.
Your lawyer can also use this to your advantage when trying to work out a plea bargain. Most defendants who get arrested do nothing during their case to address drug or alcohol issues. If you do, it will set you apart in the right way. Showing you are less likely to commit another offense in the future.
Going to rehab will also avoid the consequences of getting another DWI while out on bond. It will be very hard for any prosecutor, judge or jury to have sympathy in sentencing for a defendant who continues to drink and drive while on bond for intoxication manslaughter.
Defense Basics- What your lawyers should be doing first.
An intoxication manslaughter case is a DWI case with the additional element of an accident causing death that was caused by intoxication. So your team of lawyers will start by looking at the DWI elements, did you operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated? There is too much to go into on DWI defense for this post but issues like field sobriety tests, blood/breath testing, underlying medical conditions, statements at the scene, what you ate/drank/took and when, all come into play. Can the State prove, that at the time you were driving, you were legally intoxicated?
The 2nd issue your lawyers will look at is the accident and the connection between being intoxicated and causing the death of another. This will almost certainly involve the use of an accident reconstruction expert. You may have been driving while intoxicated, but was your intoxication the cause of the accident? What role did other drivers play in the accident? Was there a mechnical failure in the car? Bad weather? Poor road conditions? A deer running out in front of you?
The cause of the fatality has to be grounded in the defendant’s intoxication. If not, then it is just a DWI case, not an intoxication manslaughter case.