When there is any evidence to suggest that a traffic accident was the result of intoxication–which covers both drug and alcohol use–the driver may face intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault charges if anyone else was killed or injured. These are serious crimes that can land a person in jail for decades depending on the circumstances and their prior criminal record. In determining whether or not someone was legally intoxicated, a jury may consider the testimony of police officers who are trained and experienced in observing the effects of drug and alcohol use on a driver.
Court: “After Effects” of Meth Use Are a Stage of “Intoxication”
Take this recent decision from a Texas appeals court in Corpus Christi, Linzey v. State. This case involved a fatal car accident on Highway 281 in Burnet County. The defendant was driving a white pickup truck, which veered into the opposite lane and struck another vehicle. A passenger in the defendant’s truck was seriously injured in the collision, while a passenger in the other vehicle died from their injuries. Prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with one count each of intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter.
At trial, a trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety recounted his conversation with the defendant following the accident. The trooper said the defendant admitted to using methamphetamine and marijuana the previous night. The trooper, who was certified as a “drug recognition expert,” then administered a series of tests to “determine [the defendant’s] level of intoxication.” Based on these tests, the trooper offered his opinion that the defendant “had lost the normal use of his mental and physical faculties due to the introduction of methamphetamine.”
The defendant maintained the evidence only showed that he was “impacted by the after-effects of methamphetamine use,” which was not the same thing as legal intoxication. The prosecution replied the “depressive effects of methamphetamine use” were in fact a “stage of methamphetamine intoxication.” The jury apparently agreed and convicted the defendant on all counts. After taking the defendant’s prior record into account, the trial court sentenced him to a total of 60 years in prison.
The Texas 13th District Court of Appeals later rejected the defendant’s claim that there was “insufficient evidence” to support the guilty verdicts. The appeals court said that a “rational” jury “ could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that [the defendant] was intoxicated at the time of the accident.” The court noted an expert witness at trial established the “depressive effect” commonly associated with meth use–i.e., the crash that occurs after the initial stimulant effect wears off–was itself a stage of intoxication.
Speak with Houston DWI Accident Lawyer Tad Nelson Today
Although intoxication is normally associated with alcohol use, the law actually covers any drug or substance that can affect a person’s normal physical or mental functioning while behind the wheel. So if you are arrested and charged with an intoxication-related crime following a car accident, it is important you speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today if you require immediate assistance.