Probably one of the most gut-wrenching criminal cases are those when a person goes out and shares a drink with a friend, drives home, is in a car accident, and someone dies. No one imagined a night out would end so painfully. Now, as a suspected DWI driver, you may also be blamed for the accident. That means instead of a DWI charge alone, you could be looking at an intoxication manslaughter charge. The penalties that follow a conviction of this offense are significant. To protect your rights and safeguard your freedom, you'll need an aggressive, experienced DWI defense attorney.
Carl Ceder, a DWI defense attorney located in Plano, Texas, and representing clients throughout the Dallas and Fort Worth metro area, understands the gravity that accompanies a conviction of this type of offense. He will be aggressive in the investigation, comprehensive in the collection of evidence, and smart about your defense. Here, an overview of intoxication manslaughter is provided but contact Carl Ceder immediately at 469-900-0000 to schedule a consultation to learn more about your case, what to expect, and what options you may have.
How Does Texas Define Intoxication Manslaughter?
Intoxication manslaughter is an offense in Texas governed by Texas Penal Code § 49.08. A person commits this offense when he or she
(1) operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and
(2) is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
In other words, intoxication manslaughter is a DWI-related crime committed when a person drives drunk, causes an accident, and another person dies because of the accident.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove to Win a Conviction of Intoxication Manslaughter?
The prosecutor can charge you with the offense of intoxication manslaughter but that does not mean you will be found guilty. Every element of the offense must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt or else a jury must return a not-guilty verdict. Proving each element is made harder because:
- the prosecutor must prove you were intoxicated; and
- the prosecutor must prove you caused the accident.
Both of these elements have individual elements that must be proven, too. These types of cases can be very technical and scientific, leaving room for ample opportunities to challenge the state.
How Can an Experienced Texas DWI Defense Attorney Defend Against an Allegation of Intoxication Manslaughter?
An experienced Texas DWI defense attorney will defend you against a charge of intoxication manslaughter by challenging the State each step of the way. Primarily, this means challenging the prosecutor on claims you were driving while intoxicated and caused the accident that led to the death of another person.
Proving Driving While Intoxicated
To prove driving while intoxicated, you must have been a person was
- operating a vehicle
- while intoxicated
- in a public place.
Usually, the first and second elements are not difficult to prove, but the second element can be. To prove "while intoxicated," the prosecutor must show that you either:
- had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more; or
- did not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to:
- a controlled substance
- a drug
- a dangerous drug
- a combination of two or more of those substances, or
- any other substance.
To prove one of the above, results from any field sobriety tests and chemical tests are admitted as evidence. But the results of these tests are often inaccurate or unreliable. An experienced DWI defense attorney will understand the science and technology behind these tests and will be able to pinpoint problems. For example,
- a field sobriety test may be administered improperly, giving rise to an inaccurate result;
- a breathalyzer may not have been calibrated regularly, producing a false reading;
- a blood sample may have been improperly handled via the chain of custody, tainting the integrity of the blood sample.
Many other ways exist to effectively challenge the tests that are meant to prove intoxication. Card David Ceder will be aggressive in this area, reading the tests, the circumstances of the arrest, and putting forth a strong defense strategy to cause doubt that you were in fact intoxicated while driving a vehicle in a public place.
Proving Fault in an Auto Accident
Not only does the prosecutor need to prove you were driving while intoxicated but that you actually caused the accident. This can sometimes prove difficult for the State and prove an important element of your defense.
Consider first that maybe you were illegally intoxicated, which doesn't mean your faculties were necessarily impaired. People are of all different sizes, shapes, and tolerances. A male weighing 200 pounds and who is accustomed to drinking may be able to tolerate several beers more so than a woman weighing 120 pounds and not accustomed to drinking as many beers. In sum, though a person is illegally intoxicated per se because his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08, that person may have still been fully in control and alert while driving. The other driver may have been speeding and lost control of the car on a rainy night. There are so many factors that could come into play, leading to a car accident.
Often car accident reconstruction reports are used to determine the exact cause(s) of a car accident. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a reconstruction report may turn in your favor. An experienced DWI defense attorney like Carl Ceder knows how to read and use these reports to his clients' advantage.
To prove who caused the accident, other evidence can be admitted as well, like:
- eye witness accounts
- weather conditions
- traffic conditions
- medical report
- police report
What are the Penalties if Convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter in Plano TX?
A typical intoxication manslaughter case is a felony in the second degree. The offense can, however, be charged as a felony in the first degree under certain circumstances, specifically when the alleged DWI offender causes the death of:
- a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel while in the actual discharge of an official duty; or
- a peace officer or judge while the officer or judge was in the actual discharge of an official duty.
A second-degree felony carries a sentence of incarceration between two and twenty years and a fine of up to $10,000. A first-degree felony carries a sentence of incarceration between five and 99 years or life imprisonment as well as a fine of up to $10,000. What's more, as a felon, you lose your constitutional right to vote and to own and use a firearm even after you paid your so-called debt to society.
Contact an Experienced Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Attorney in Plano TX
If you have been in a car accident in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where someone died and you were charged with a DWI and/or intoxication manslaughter, contact Carl David Ceder today. His experience, insight, and commitment may be the turning point you need in your case.