Under Texas Penal Code Section 49.08, a person commits intoxication manslaughter if he or she operates a motor vehicle, watercraft, aircraft, or amusement park ride in a public place while intoxicated and, by so doing, causes the death of a person by accident or mistake. The fatality may be the death of a passenger in the same car, another car, a pedestrian, or anyone affected by the actions of the car operator. This also applies to a death that occurs after the accident as a result of severe injuries.
Penalties for Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas
If you have been convicted of this second-degree felony, you could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and face penalties up to $10,000. In addition to this, you may be ordered to perform up to 800 hours of community service; your driver’s license may be suspended; you may be required to install an interlock device on your vehicle/ complete an alcohol or drug abuse education program. Finally, you will carry the felony on your permanent record. This can affect your rights and your future opportunities for the rest of your life.
Escalating Penalties for Intoxication Manslaughter
If your intoxication manslaughter case involves the death of a firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, or a police officer while on duty, the charges can be increased to a first-degree felony. This carries a penalty of 5 to 99 years in state prison along with substantial fines.
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The Burden of Proof
In an intoxication manslaughter criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof. They must prove that you were legally intoxicated while operating the vehicle and that the intoxication caused the accident that resulted in a fatality.
The prosecution commonly uses the results of a blood alcohol concentration test or a field sobriety test to prove their assertion that you were legally intoxicated. If there were no tests, the prosecution may have to rely on witness testimony. If you were involuntarily intoxicated, or drugged without knowing it, you cannot be held responsible for the fatality.
Blood Alcohol Concentration Tests and Intoxication Manslaughter
If you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter, you may or may not have agreed to take a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. A person is considered legally intoxicated if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. An individual may also be considered intoxicated when the BAC is lower than the legal limit of 0.08 percent if the individual has alcohol, a controlled substance, or drugs in their system that result in the loss of normal use of their mental or physical faculties.
Blood tests measure BAC directly and are the most accurate form of chemical testing. Urine and breath tests provide indirect measurements, with urine tests being the least accurate detectors of alcohol intoxication.
If your intoxication manslaughter charge relies on the results of a BAC test, your attorney may be able to discredit that evidence and protect your right to a fair trial.
How an Intoxication Manslaughter Lawyer in Texas Can Help
An attorney can help you by forcing the state to meet the high burden of proof you are entitled to under the law. There are many strategies that can be used, depending on the nature of your case. Some tactics that have been successful in past cases include:
- Questioning the accuracy of the device used to measure your BAC
- Explaining how certain medical conditions could artificially raise your BAC reading
- Demonstrating the device used to measure your BAC was not calibrated and maintained correctly
- Showing that there may have been an error during the collection and handling of your blood test
- Proving that the arresting officer did not follow appropriate procedures when making the arrest
If you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter in the state of Texas, we want to help protect your rights. Call the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg at 214-696-9253 to get started with a free consultation.