A drunk driving accident typically draws a harsh response from prosecutors and judges, especially when an innocent person is killed.
Even when a defendant takes responsibility and “throws themself at the mercy of the Court,” so to speak, that does not guarantee a more lenient sentence. Keep in mind, intoxication manslaughter–i.e., killing someone in the course of committing a DWI–is a second-degree felony in Texas.
This means that a judge or jury has the discretion to send a guilty defendant to prison for up to 20 years.
Judge Gives Defendant Maximum Allowed Under Texas Law
A Texas appeals court recently upheld a maximum sentence in an intoxication manslaughter case.
Introduction to the Romero v. State Case
In Romero v. State, the defendant was driving the wrong way on I-820 near Fort Worth when he collided with another vehicle, killing its driver. The victim, a 21-year-old man, was described by the family as “working to save money to go back to college,” at the time of his death, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The Intoxication Manslaughter Charge and Open Plea
After police obtained evidence that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the fatal accident, prosecutors charged him with intoxication manslaughter. The defendant decided to plead guilty. The plea was considered “open,” meaning there was no agreement with the prosecution as to a recommended sentence. The defendant elected to have a judge determine his sentence without a jury.
The Sentencing Hearing and the Defendant’s Explanation
The judge held an evidentiary hearing before sentencing. The defendant attempted to explain his actions. He said he began abusing alcohol after his then-wife had suffered a miscarriage. The prosecution replied that the “miscarriage of justice suffered by the decedent’s family was not comparable to the miscarriage of a child suffered by [the defendant] and his ex-wife.”
Imposition of Maximum Sentence and Appeal
The judge apparently agreed and imposed the maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant challenged what he considered the prosecution’s “mischaracterization” of his argument, as well as the testimony of an accident reconstruction expert called as a witness during the hearing.
The Defense’s Arguments and the Appellate Court’s Ruling
The Texas Seventh District Court of Appeals rejected the defense’s arguments and upheld his 20-year prison sentence. Most of the appellate opinions addressed the objections to the expert witness. The defendant’s main objection was that the witness lacked “personal knowledge” of what happened during the accident.
The Expert Witness Testimony and the Court’s Explanation
The Seventh District explained, however, that the expert was entitled to give his opinions based on the testimony of a prior witness, who did personally observe the accident, notably the fact the defendant had been driving the wrong way on I-820.
Contact Galveston DWI Accident Attorney Tad Nelson Today
A DWI accident is not a simple traffic ticket or misdemeanor case. It is a serious felony that can send you to prison for years or even decades.
That is why your first call following an arrest should be to a qualified Houston DWI manslaughter defense lawyer who will zealously represent your interests in court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.