Alcohol is an inebriant and, unfortunately, it can lead to lapses of character and judgment. It is not uncommon for someone to involuntarily commit a crime while intoxicated.
A man in Texas was charged for intoxication assault for assaulting another male in a bar while under the influence, for instance. The assaulted victim died from his injuries. As a result, the offender had his charges upgraded to involuntary manslaughter.
There is a fine line between intoxication assault and involuntary manslaughter in the state of Texas. Although they are closely related, the severity of both the act and penalties are significantly different.
The Texas Penal Code
The Texas Penal Code defines the two acts as intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter. The key elements for each crime are as follows:
A person commits intoxication assault if, whether by accident or mistake, they commit the following:
- A person operates an aircraft, watercraft, amusement ride, or operates a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated and, as a result of this intoxication, causes grievous bodily harm to another; or
- A person assembles a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated and as a result of the intoxicated assembly, causes grievous bodily harm to another
Grievous bodily harm is defined as an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious permanent disfigurement or loss of function to any body part or organ.
Intoxication assault is a third-degree felony and punishable by 2-10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
A person commits intoxication manslaughter under the following criteria:
- If a person operates an aircraft, watercraft, amusement ride, a motor vehicle in a public place, or assembles a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated, and as a result of this intoxication, causes the death of another.
- If a person is intoxicated and as a result, causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
Intoxication Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, which can carry double the prison term of a third-degree felony conviction (plus the fine).
The Fine Line in Texas
As shown by the legislation above, there is a fine line between intoxication assault and involuntary manslaughter in Texas. The key difference between both charges is whether or not a death was involved.
Whether the Crime Involved a Death
Intoxication assault applies only to cases where there is serious injury but not to cases where there is death. If there is a death involved as a result of intoxication, then the charges become much more serious.
An Experienced Texas Defense Attorney Can Help
While intoxication by itself is not a valid defense in these types of situations, an attorney who specializes in intoxication and intoxication assault laws can assist in making sense of what charges and defenses may be applicable to your case.
Sometimes a defense strategy is less about disputing a crime occurred, and more about whether a mistake has been made in the initial accusation, or at some point during the procedural process.
Intoxication laws and legislation can be dense and difficult to grasp, but it is important to understand the nuances of intoxication offenses because the penalties they carry can be significantly different.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.