Understanding Intoxication Manslaughter Laws In Texas

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Don't Face Intoxication Manslaughter Charges Alone

In the midst of such a trying time, uncertainty should not compound your worries. You need the guidance of seasoned Austin intoxication manslaughter lawyers. With more than 100 years of combined experience and over 25,000 cases under our belts, Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, understand the ins and outs of Texas law. Act now, dial (512) 991-0576, or contact us online for a dedicated and results-driven defense.

In Texas, it's a serious crime to cause the death of another person due to intoxication while operating a vehicle, an aircraft, a watercraft, an amusement ride, or even when constructing a (mobile) amusement ride. The main law that covers this is Section 49.08 of the Texas Penal Code.

The Basics Of Intoxication Manslaughter

This law states that an individual commits an offense if they, while intoxicated, operate a vehicle, an aircraft, a watercraft, an amusement ride, or construct a (mobile) amusement ride, that results in the death of some other person by mistake or accident. Unless stated otherwise in Section 49.09, the offense is considered a second-degree felony. This provision was added into law in 1993 and was amended in 1999.

Enhanced Offenses And Penalties

In addition to the basic law, there are situations in which the penalties can be enhanced, as laid out in Section 49.09 of the Penal Code. For example, a person who has previously been convicted one time of an offense related to operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated will face a Class A misdemeanor for the next offense with a minimum confinement period of 30 days.

If it can be shown during the trial that the person has already been convicted one time of an offense under Section 49.08 or an offense with similar elements in another state's laws, the next offense under certain sections is considered a third-degree felony. The same applies if the person has been convicted two times of any other offense related to operating a vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated.

Serious Bodily Injury And Death Of Certain Personnel

The penalties are even more severe if the offense results in serious bodily injury to a firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, a peace officer, or a judge while they're performing their official duties. In this case, the offense is a second-degree felony if the injured party is a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel, and it's a first-degree felony if the injured party is a peace officer or judge. If the offense results in the death of a person described in these categories, it's a first-degree felony.

Serious Bodily Injury Resulting In A Persistent Vegetative State

If the offense results in serious bodily injury to another person and that injury results in a persistent vegetative state, the offense is a felony of the second degree.

Enhancements And Restrictions On Motor Vehicle Operation

A conviction can be used for enhancement purposes. In this context, enhancement means the increasing of the penalty for a crime due to previous convictions. For the purposes of this section, a person is considered to have been convicted of an offense under certain sections if the person was placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for the offense.

Importantly, there are specific requirements for individuals found guilty of a subsequent or second offense concerning the operation of a vehicle while under the influence committed within 5 years of the actual date of the most recent prior offense was perpetrated. The court will order that a device that detects ethyl alcohol in the operator's breath be installed on every motor vehicle owned or operated by the defendant. Failure to comply with an order of this nature is punishable by contempt.


Questioning Intoxication

One of the essential elements of these offenses is that the accused must be “intoxicated.” A defense attorney may challenge the prosecution's evidence of intoxication. This could involve questioning the validity of breathalyzer, blood, or field sobriety tests. For instance, they might argue that the tests were improperly conducted, the equipment was faulty, or the police didn't follow proper procedures.


The statute requires that the intoxication be the cause of the accident resulting in death. As a defense, an intoxication manslaughter attorney might argue that the accident and resulting death were caused by another factor entirely, such as another driver's error, a mechanical failure, or poor road conditions, and not the defendant's alleged intoxication.

Probable Cause For Stop

Every traffic stop requires a valid reason, known as probable cause. If the defendant's vehicle was stopped without probable cause, all evidence obtained after the stop (including evidence of intoxication) could potentially be suppressed, meaning it cannot be used in court.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Intoxication Manslaughter In Texas?

Intoxication Manslaughter occurs when an individual, while intoxicated, operates a vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride in a public place and accidentally or mistakenly causes the death of another person.

What Is The Penalty For Intoxication Manslaughter?

Under the Penal Code of Texas, Intoxication or Intoxicated Manslaughter is generally considered a 2nd-degree felony, which carries a penalty of two to twenty years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. However, under certain circumstances, the offense can be considered a first-degree felony.

How Can An Intoxication Manslaughter Charge Be Upgraded To A First-Degree Felony?

If it's shown during the trial that the accused caused the death of a firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, a peace officer, or judge while they were performing their official duties, the offense becomes a first-degree felony. This is associated with a heavier sentence, potentially 5 to 99 years, or life imprisonment.

What If I Have Previous Convictions Related To Operating A Vehicle While Intoxicated?

Previous convictions can lead to enhanced charges and penalties. For example, an offense that would typically be a misdemeanor can be elevated to a third-degree felony if the person has previously been convicted of intoxication manslaughter crimes or two of any other offenses related to operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Is There Any Requirement For A Device Installation In My Vehicle After A Second Conviction?

Yes, if you're found guilty of a subsequent or second offense concerning the operation of a vehicle while under the influence within 5 years, the judge will order the installation of a device in your vehicle. This device employs a mechanism to analyze deep-lung breath to prevent the operation of the vehicle if ethyl alcohol is detected in the breath of the operator.

Can I Defend Myself Against An Intoxication Manslaughter Charge?

Yes, it's possible to defend against an Intoxication Manslaughter charge. An intoxication defense lawyer may question the validity of intoxication tests, argue that the accident was caused by something other than your intoxication, or challenge the lawfulness of the traffic stop. However, the specifics of your case will dictate which defense strategy would be most effective. Always consult with a criminal defense lawyer for legal advice and representation.

Charged With Intoxication Manslaughter In Texas? Act Now!

An intoxication manslaughter charge is overwhelming, but you don't have to navigate these legal complexities alone. At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, our in-depth understanding of the legal system provides the tactical advantage you need. Our intoxication manslaughter attorneys commit to translating these complex laws into a defense strategy aimed at safeguarding your rights and achieving the best possible outcome.

Let's start your defense now! Call us at (512) 991-0576 or reach out to us online to get the seasoned representation you deserve.

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