Texas Intoxication Manslaughter Law – Penal Code 49.08

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 What Is Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas?

Under Texas Penal Code 49.08, an individual commits intoxication manslaughter in Texas when they do any of the following while they are intoxicated:

  • Operate an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement park ride or assemble an amusement park ride;
  • Drive a motor vehicle in a public place.

The individual’s actions while they were intoxicated resulted in the death of another individual. If an individual has any questions regarding intoxication manslaughter, they should consult with a local Texas lawyer.

What Is the Legal Definition of Intoxication?

For the purposes of manslaughter intoxication in Texas, intoxication is defined as:

  • An individual is intoxicated if they have ingested alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, or some combination of these substances to the extent that the individual does not have the normal use of their mental or physical faculties;
  • An individual shows a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

An individual’s blood alcohol concentration can be measured by a breath, blood, or urine test. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 means that the number of grams of alcohol is as follows:

  • 210 liters of breath;
  • 100 milliliters of blood;
  • 67 milliliters of urine.

What Is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter occurs when an individual causes the death of another individual without the intent to kill that individual. In this context, intent refers to the intention to take the life of another individual.

Taking an individual’s life with premeditation and malice aforethought, which is a type of intent, is the crime of murder.

Are There Different Kinds of Manslaughter?

In numerous states, there are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. With voluntary manslaughter, the perpetrator intended to kill or seriously harm the victim but acted on a momentary impulse under circumstances that could cause any reasonable individual to become emotionally or mentally disturbed.

With voluntary manslaughter, there are circumstances that reduce the liability of the perpetrator, for example, when the perpetrator kills only with the intent to cause serious bodily harm. In certain states, voluntary manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder.

One common factor that can mitigate a homicide and make it a manslaughter and not a murder is a provocation. Provocation occurs when an individual is considered to have committed a criminal act, for example, a homicide, at least partly as a result of events that occurred before the homicide that were of a nature that would cause any reasonable person to lose their self-control.

This provocation can make a perpetrator less morally at fault than if their actions had been planned, premeditated, and committed with malice aforethought or intent to kill the victim. The most common form of voluntary manslaughter occurs when the perpetrator is provoked to commit a homicide.

This type of crime may be referred to as a crime of passion. In the majority of cases, the provocation has to include anger or rage in the perpetrator.

It is important to note that some courts have held that fright, terror, or desperation may also serve as a provocation. Involuntary manslaughter is the killing of another human being without intent to kill on the part of the perpetrator.

This type of manslaughter is different from voluntary manslaughter due to the lack of intent. Some states have two different types of involuntary manslaughter: constructive manslaughter and criminally negligent manslaughter, or homicide.

What Is the Punishment for Intoxication Manslaughter?

In the State of Texas, intoxication manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony that is punishable by:

  • A term of imprisonment in state prison for a period of from two to 20 years;
  • Payment of a fine of $10,000;
  • A fine and a prison sentence.

In addition to fines and imprisonment, the Texas Penal Code requires an individual who is convicted of intoxication manslaughter to serve a minimum of 240 hours of community service. The prosecutor may ask the court to require as many as 800 community service hours.

There may also be consequences for the defendant’s driver’s license. If an individual is convicted, their driver’s license may be suspended for a minimum of 6 months and may be suspended for as long as two years.

At the end of the suspension time, the individual will be required to make a payment of $2,000 per year for the first three years after their conviction in order to keep their driver’s license active in Texas.

If more than one individual is killed in a single crash, the defendant may be charged with more than one offense. If two victims are killed, the defendant may be charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter, three counts for three victims, and so on.

Each of the offenses would qualify the defendant for a separate sentence for each victim.

Is Intoxication Manslaughter the Same as Vehicular Manslaughter?

In the State of Texas, the offenses of intoxication manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter are different. Texas laws do not define the crime of vehicular manslaughter per se, but this does not keep prosecutors from charging it.

Texas district attorneys may adopt laws from the Texas Penal Code to form the basis of a criminal charge of vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter involves a motor vehicle accident that was caused by the reckless driving of one driver in a fatality.

For example, the driver who was at fault may have been speeding excessively. However, intoxication is not involved.

Both vehicular manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter require the prosecution to show reckless behavior as defined by the law. The Texas Penal Code defines reckless behavior as:

  • An individual exhibits reckless behavior when they are aware that there is a substantial and unjustifiable risk present in the circumstances but consciously disregards the presence of the risk or the potential results that can occur;
  • The risk must be clear and of a kind that an ordinary, average individual would recognize and exercise care in their conduct under the circumstances.

For example, with an intoxication manslaughter case, recklessness is clear if an individual consumes alcohol to the point that they are heavily intoxicated and get in their car and attempt to drive home. An ordinary individual will be aware that this is reckless behavior and creates the risk of a car accident and that a car accident may be serious.

All categories of manslaughter require proof of an accident in which an individual died from bodily injuries sustained in a collision with a motor vehicle, an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement park ride.

Are There Sentence Enhancements for Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas?

Sentence enhancements are factors or circumstances that may increase the sentence for a criminal offense. Examples of sentence enhancements include an increased penalty for a perpetrator who:

  • Is a repeat offender;
  • Caused harm to a specific kind of victim, such as a police officer;
  • Caused a certain kind of harm.

The offense of intoxication manslaughter will be charged as a felony in the first degree if the perpetrator killed is an emergency medical services employee or a firefighter. A defendant who killed one of those categories of victims may face the following:

  • A term of imprisonment in state prison for a period of five to 99 years;
  • Payment of a fine of as much as $10,000;
  • A fine and time in state prison.

Do I Need an Attorney to Help With My Intoxication Manslaughter Charge in Texas?

If you are facing intoxication manslaughter charges in Texas, it is essential to consult with a Texas criminal defense lawyer. Any type of manslaughter charge is a very serious criminal charge.

You may face an enhanced sentence of imprisonment for up to 99 years is a possibility. You will need the assistance of a lawyer to properly defend yourself against any manslaughter charge.

Your lawyer can advise you of any defenses you may have and negotiate a possible resolution with the prosecution. Your case will likely have a much better outcome with the help of a qualified defense lawyer.

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