Getting together with loved ones like friends and family can be a joyful time. Bringing people together to celebrate a special occasion or just spend precious time together is meant to bring happiness. But a happy time can turn to tragedy if irresponsible behavior leads to a DWI or a serious car accident. This is especially true if the accident results in the death of another person.
The grief does not end with the accident. Criminal charges such as vehicular homicide or criminal negligence can follow you for months or even years.
Take the legal proceedings regarding a man in Solano County, California. In March 2019, the man lost control and crashed his motorcycle on the highway. He and his passenger were ejected from the motorcycle. Injuries from the crash later killed his passenger.
Law enforcement officials discovered that the man was under the influence of alcohol and drugs during the crash. He was charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving without a license, and DUI causing bodily injuries. Court will resume almost three months later to start sorting out this case and eventually reach a verdict.
Have you or your loved one been charged with vehicular manslaughter? Learn more about this charge to help build a strong defense strategy.
What Is Manslaughter According to Texas Law?
Does someone who gets behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated intend to kill someone else? Not usually. Is every homicide the result of malice or premeditation on behalf of the assailant? No. That’s why manslaughter charges were created.
Murder and manslaughter charges both involve the killing of another person. The biggest difference is the intention behind the killing. Murder charges presume that the defendant had a reason for committing the crime, thought about it beforehand, or acted with the intent to kill. Manslaughter charges presume the act was due to recklessness or negligence.
Texas residents may face a variety of manslaughter charges, including some charges that don’t exist in any other state. These charges often come with less severe penalties than other forms of homicide due to a lack of intent or appearance of recklessness in the case.
In its most recent report, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted that motor vehicle accidents caused over 4,400 deaths in the state of Texas alone. Not all of these deaths were intentional. Speeding, distracted driving, or simple accidents can cause major damage when a car or motorcycle is involved.
Drivers know that speeding and texting while driving is dangerous. If these acts, or any act that is considered a “substantial and unjustifiable risk to others” kills another person, the driver may be charged with vehicular manslaughter. (In Texas, this charge is simply called “manslaughter.”)
Death does not have to be immediate. If injuries from a car accident directly cause someone else’s death, even weeks or months later, the driver could still face vehicular manslaughter charges.
This charge is a second-degree felony in Texas. Convicted offenders could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Not all acts of recklessness are done with the knowledge of how risky the act is. There is a difference between knowing the danger of something and disregarding it, and not knowing the danger in the first place. If the latter causes death, the driver may be charged with criminally negligent homicide.
This is not always easy to prove – the defendant will usually need the help of a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney to prove that they did not know the risk they were taking.
Penalties for this charge are less severe than other manslaughter charges. It is a state jail felony that may result in 6 months-2 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
If controlled substances were in the driver’s system at the time of the accident, the charge is brought up to a second-degree felony once more. This charge is unique to Texas and doesn’t just cover car crashes. Anyone found operating the following machines while intoxicated may face intoxication manslaughter charges if a death occurs:
- A motor vehicle
- An aircraft
- A watercraft
- An amusement park ride
- The assembly of a mobile amusement ride
That’s right. A drunk Six Flags employee could face up to 20 years in prison for causing the death of a guest. If the accident causes serious bodily injury, the same person may face intoxication assault charges, a third-degree felony.
Facing Serious Charges? Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Felony charges are serious business. Being a convicted felon gives you a lower status in this country. The guilt of taking another life may seem like all the punishment in the world, but that’s not how law enforcement sees things.
If you have been charged with any sort of manslaughter, talk to a criminal defense attorney. They can help you build a defense strategy to reduce your charges, reduce your sentence, or have them dropped altogether.
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.