What is intoxication manslaughter?

Intoxication manslaughter takes place when a driver who is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes death to an individual. The death does not have to be immediate and can occur later, as a result of the injuries. In Texas, it is a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Therefore, if a person knowingly consumes alcohol or drugs, then proceeds to drive and kills a person, he or she will be facing criminal charges.

Other states refer to such situations as DUI causing injury or death, DUI manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. “Intoxication manslaughter” is a relatively new term created by lawmakers from Texas. Additionally, Texas is the only state that recognizes this crime as an independent offense.


What does it mean to be intoxicated?

Although the word “intoxication” is often associated with alcohol and illegal drugs, it is also possible for an individual to be intoxicated with prescription medications. All of these substances can have a significant effect on one’s physical and mental capabilities. However, how someone feels does not determine whether they are legally intoxicated. For example, it is possible to feel and act  “normal” while having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, which is 0.08.

Not every intoxication is voluntary. If someone is given a substance that will result in intoxication and the person is not aware of it, he or she becomes involuntarily intoxicated. In such cases, the intoxicated person will not be legally accountable for the death of another person.


Was intoxication linked to death?

Even if the intoxication of the driver was not the only cause of death, he or she can still be charged with intoxication manslaughter. This rule, however, does not apply to cases where there is another sufficient cause to the death or if the driver’s actions were undoubtedly insufficient to have caused the death.

Furthermore, it has to be proven that the driver was intoxicated. It can be done in a few ways -- through testimony from an eye witness, video footage, the “Time of Driving” rules used in Texas, or their blood-alcohol content (BAC). The last method is known to be faulty and thoroughly questioned in court, because the way in which it is conducted often leads to inaccurate results.

To sum up, intoxication manslaughter is an offense in which a person’s death was caused by someone who was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, the driver can be held legally accountable only if it is clear that the intoxication was the cause of the accident and death. It is considered a second-degree felony, therefore the punishment is severe.


If you’ve been injured by a car, truck, 18 wheeler, or company vehicle, call DeSouza Law today at (210) 910-HURT or (361) 799-2222.