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Defending Against Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas

Police car lights at night at the scene of a fatal car accident.

Intoxication manslaughter is a serious offense in Texas. It occurs when an impaired individual operates a motor vehicle and causes a fatal car accident. This definition extends beyond traditional motor vehicles to include other transportation modes and even recreational equipment.

The victim's death doesn't need to occur immediately at the scene for the charge to apply. If someone sustains injuries in a car and later dies, the intoxicated driver can still face intoxication manslaughter charges.

The relationship between the impaired individual and the victim doesn't affect the charge. Whether the deceased is a stranger, an acquaintance, or even a family member, the legal implications remain the same.

If you or someone you love is facing intoxication manslaughter charges in Conroe, TX, or the surrounding area, you should contact an experienced DWI offense attorney as soon as possible to review your potential legal options.

What are the legal consequences of intoxication manslaughter in Texas?

Intoxication manslaughter in Texas is classified as a second-degree felony. This type of charge can lead to two to 20 years in state prison, fines, and potential probation.

Upon conviction, you could face a driver's license suspension for 180 days to 2 years. If you are granted driving privileges after suspension, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device.

Additionally, the court often mandates 240 to 800 hours of community service and completion of an alcohol or drug treatment program.

The long-term impacts of an intoxication manslaughter conviction are also harsh. It can affect future employment, housing, and other opportunities.

If you have any professional licenses, they will likely be affected or revoked. Plus, voting rights are suspended while incarcerated, on parole, or on probation, though they are restored after completing the full sentence.

How is intoxication manslaughter proven in Texas?

Prosecutors must demonstrate that your intoxication was the direct cause of the victim's death. This burden of proof involves several key elements, including:

Voluntary vs. involuntary intoxication

The law primarily applies to voluntary intoxication. If someone knowingly consumes alcohol or drugs and then drives, they can be held responsible even if they didn't feel impaired.

However, if someone is unknowingly drugged, leading to intoxication and a fatal accident, they may not be guilty of this charge.

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC)

Texas defines a BAC of 0.08 or higher as legally intoxicated. Even if a person doesn't appear impaired, exceeding this limit can result in charges if a fatality occurs.

Law enforcement may use various methods to assess intoxication, including:

  • Field sobriety tests
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Breathalyzers (though less common now)

Types of intoxicating substances

While alcohol and illegal drugs are common causes, prescription medications or combinations of substances can also lead to impairment and subsequent charges.


Prosecutors must demonstrate that the intoxication, not some other factor, led to the fatal crash. They may try to accomplish this by working with accident reconstruction experts, obtaining toxicology reports, speaking to witnesses, or getting access to video footage.

Other factors

Prosecutors need to address and disprove potential defense arguments, such as road conditions or actions of other drivers that might have contributed to the car accident.

What legal defenses do I have for intoxication manslaughter?

The best legal defenses for intoxication manslaughter in Texas typically focus on challenging the prosecution's evidence or arguing that other factors were primarily responsible for the fatal accident. Here are some of the most effective defenses:

  • Challenging the BAC test: A defense attorney may argue that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test was improperly administered or that the equipment was faulty. They might also challenge the chain of custody for blood samples.
  • Involuntary intoxication: As mentioned earlier, if you were drugged without your knowledge, this could be a strong defense.
  • Challenging causation: A defense attorney may argue that factors other than intoxication primarily caused the car accident.
  • Necessity or duress: In rare cases, the defense might argue that the defendant had to drive due to an emergency or threat.
  • Improper stop or arrest: If the initial traffic stop was illegal, evidence obtained afterward might be inadmissible.
  • Miranda rights violation: If the defendant's rights were violated during questioning, certain statements might be excluded from evidence.
  • Challenging field sobriety tests: These tests can be subjective and affected by factors other than intoxication.
  • Incorrect police procedure: Failure to follow proper procedures could compromise the case and potentially result in the dropping of charges.

Contact a Texas DWI defense attorney today

If you're facing intoxication manslaughter charges in Texas, it's important to act fast and get an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.

Amanda Webb - DWI Lawyer can thoroughly investigate your case, challenge the prosecution's evidence, and work tirelessly to protect your rights and freedom.

Take the first step toward safeguarding your future by contacting us for a free DWI case evaluation. We'll answer any questions you have and inform you of your rights and options with no financial risk or commitment on your part.