What Are the Potential Consequences of an Intoxication Manslaughter Conviction?

A DWI accident becomes intoxication manslaughter when a driver “is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.” The difference between intoxication manslaughter and a “normal” DWI cannot be overstated. A first-time DWI is a normally a Class C misdemeanor, while intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony. In other words, if the state can prove a drunk driver killed someone, that driver faces between 2 and 20 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000.

Appeals Court Upholds 20-Year Prison Term Following Fatal DWI Accident

Indeed, in a recent Texas case, Davis v. State, a jury assessed the maximum punishment–20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine–against an Orange County man who previously pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter. According to the Beaumont Enterprise, the defendant was driving his Dodge truck when he “crossed the centerline into southbound traffic and drove through a bar ditch,” eventually striking and killing a pedestrian. Police later recovered methamphetamine from the defendant’s vehicle.

Before the trial court, and later the Court of Appeals, the defendant argued the original indictment against him was legally defective. Specifically, he said the indictment “failed to allege the manner and means of how he was intoxicated and failed to adequately allege a causal connection to the victim’s death.” Both the trial judge and the appeals court rejected this argument.

As the appeals court explained, the indictment simply cited the statutory language. That is to say, it alleged the defendant “did then and there operate a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated and did by reason of such intoxication cause the death of another.” It was not necessary for the indictment to precisely defined the nature of the defendant’s intoxication, as that is an “evidentiary” matter rather than an “element of the offense.” Furthermore, the indictment did allege that as a result of the defendant’s intoxication, he “failed to control the speed and direction of his motor vehicle, which caused [the defendant] to leave the roadway and kill the victim.” This was sufficient to provide a “causal connection” between the defendant’s actions and the victim’s death.

Ultimately, the purpose of the indictment is not to present the specific evidence against the defendant. Rather, it is to notify him “of the charges against him and to allow him to prepare a defense.” That is what happened here, the appeals court said, so there was no reason to overturn the trial court’s decision on this issue.

Have You Been Involved in a DWI Accident? Contact Tad Nelson & Associates Today

Anytime an accident leads to the death or serious injury of another person, you can be sure the police will look for any reason to hold the driver criminally liable, especially if there is evidence of possible intoxication. This is why you need to remain silent if the police start asking you questions. You should also contact a qualified Houston DWI accident defense lawyer right away. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need legal advice or assistance on any DWI-related matter.