Death by Intoxication in Texas

It really does not pay to drink and drive in Texas, even if you are the daughter of a state judge. A 2007 incident involving the intoxicated college student in an SUV and the rear end of a large box truck ended in the death of the girl’s 19-year-old boyfriend. According to Texas law, she was charged with intoxication manslaughter when her blood alcohol level revealed she was considerably over the legal limit at the time of the crash. The 7-day trial ended in a conviction that satisfied the victim’s family and the letter of the law.

Texas is the only state that identifies a homicide caused by an inebriated or impaired driver as an independent offense and it is called intoxication manslaughter, although other states do have similar laws that apply to that type of situation. Some call it vehicular manslaughter, others DUI manslaughter, and still others use related terms.

Manslaughter is one of two types of criminal homicide, in which the other is murder. Not all homicides (where one person causes the death of another person) are criminal i.e. self-defense, but all cases of manslaughter and murder are. Any criminal defense attorney in Dallas will explain that manslaughter is considered the lesser crime because of the absence of malice, forethought, or intent to kill, and can get off on probation depending on the circumstances with the right representation.

A charge of intoxication manslaughter is applicable when the driver is legally drunk or otherwise intoxicated as evidenced by blood tests even if there is no apparent impairment and causes the death (immediate or eventual from injuries sustained) of a passenger, occupants of other vehicles, or a pedestrian. Intoxication must be voluntary, which means that the defendant knowingly used an intoxicant before operating a vehicle. Such a charge may also be applied for cases with similar results when an intoxicated person operates a boat, airplane, or amusement ride.

Intoxication manslaughter is a second degree felony. The mandatory minimum is four months in prison which can be deferred to a more convenient time as what happened in the above case, 240 hours of community service, and 10 years probation plus a fine of up to $10,000. The maximum prison sentence for a conviction of intoxication manslaughter is 20 years.

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