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  • Writer's pictureBrad Thornton

San Antonio DWI Attorney: Intoxication Manslaughter Defense

Before I began my career in criminal defense, I spent years as a prosecutor specializing in the most serious DWI cases as a leader on the DWI Task Force or Vehicular Crimes Team. The most serious charge that you can face relating to DWI is intoxication manslaughter, which can be enhanced to felony murder if you have been convicted of DWI two or more times. In this blog, I will discuss the elements of the crime, potential penalties, collateral consequences, and defenses. I will also touch on hiring experts in intoxication and crash reconstruction to assist with defense.

Elements of Intoxication Manslaughter

To prove intoxication manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove three elements:

Death – The defendant must have caused the death of another person. This can be proven by showing that the defendant was driving a vehicle that caused an accident resulting in someone’s death.

Intoxication – The defendant must have been intoxicated at the time of the accident. Intoxication is defined as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher or by losing the normal use of the person’s mental or physical faculties because or alcohol, drugs, or some other substance.

Causation – The defendant is criminally responsible for intoxication manslaughter if the death would not have occurred but for their conduct, operating either alone or concurrently with another cause, unless the concurrent cause was clearly sufficient to produce the result and the person's conduct was clearly insufficient.

Potential Penalties for Intoxication Manslaughter

Intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Texas. The potential penalties include:

  • Imprisonment for 2 to 20 years

  • A fine of up to $10,000

In addition to these penalties, the defendant may also face a license suspension, community service, and mandatory alcohol education classes.

Collateral Consequences of Conviction

In addition to the potential criminal penalties, an intoxication manslaughter conviction can also have severe collateral consequences that can impact a person's personal and professional life. These consequences can include loss of driving privileges, difficulty finding employment, restrictions on housing, and damage to personal relationships.

One of the most significant collateral consequences of an intoxication manslaughter conviction is the loss of driving privileges. Texas law mandates a driver's license suspension for a minimum of six months and up to two years for a first-time conviction. Additionally, if a person has a prior DWI or intoxication manslaughter conviction, their license may be suspended for a longer. Losing the ability to drive can make it challenging to maintain employment, attend school, or even perform simple everyday tasks.

Another collateral consequence of an intoxication manslaughter conviction is the damage to a person's reputation and personal relationships. Society often views individuals who have been convicted of crimes, particularly violent crimes such as intoxication manslaughter, in a negative light. This can make it difficult to form and maintain personal and professional relationships, and in some cases, it can even lead to social isolation.

Furthermore, an intoxication manslaughter conviction can make it difficult to find employment, particularly in certain fields that require a clean criminal record. The conviction can also limit housing options, as some landlords may be hesitant to rent to individuals with criminal records.

Defenses to Intoxication Manslaughter

There are several defenses that can be raised in an intoxication manslaughter case. The most common defenses include:

Challenging the evidence of intoxication – This can include challenging the accuracy of the BAC test, the proper administration of the roadside tests, or presenting evidence that the defendant’s impairment was not caused by alcohol or drugs.

Challenging the cause of the accident – This can include arguing that the accident was caused by other factors, such as poor road conditions, the actions of another driver, or some other cause.

Challenging the causation element – This can include arguing that the defendant’s intoxication was not the direct cause of the accident.

Importance of Hiring Experts

Intoxication manslaughter cases often involve complex scientific and technical issues, which is why it's important to work with experienced experts who can provide insights and evidence to support the defense. Below are some types of experts commonly used in intoxication manslaughter cases and their purpose:

Toxicologists: A toxicologist is an expert in the science of toxicology and can provide insight into the effects of alcohol or drugs on the body. They can analyze blood, urine, and other samples taken from the defendant and provide an opinion on the level of intoxication at the time of the accident. They can also challenge the prosecution's evidence by questioning the reliability of chemical tests or offering alternative explanations for the defendant's level of intoxication.

Accident reconstruction experts: An accident reconstruction expert can analyze the scene of the accident and provide testimony on the cause and severity of the accident. They can also evaluate the evidence and provide insight into the factors that contributed to the accident, such as road conditions, weather, and driver behavior. They can bolster the defense by providing alternative explanations for the accident or challenging the prosecution's evidence on causation.

Forensic pathologists: A forensic pathologist is a medical expert who can analyze the cause and manner of death in intoxication manslaughter cases. They can evaluate autopsy reports, medical records, and other evidence to provide testimony on the cause and timing of the victim's death. They can challenge the prosecution's evidence by providing alternative explanations for the cause of death or highlighting inconsistencies in the prosecution's case.

SFST Expert: An SFST expert can provide testimony on the reliability and accuracy of field sobriety tests. They can also evaluate the police officer's observations of the defendant's behavior and provide testimony on whether the observations are consistent with intoxication. They can challenge the prosecution's evidence by questioning the accuracy in the administration of the field sobriety tests or highlighting inconsistencies in the officer's observations.

By working with experienced experts, an attorney can strengthen the defense's case and increase the chances of achieving a favorable outcome for their client. These experts can challenge the state's evidence, provide alternative explanations for the events leading up to the accident, and support the defendant's version of events. An experienced attorney will know which experts to retain and how to use their testimony to build a strong defense.

San Antonio DWI Attorney Brad Thornton

San Antonio DWI Attorney Brad Thornton

Intoxication manslaughter is a serious offense that can have life-changing consequences for those accused. It is essential to work with a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the complexities of this charge and has a proven track record of successfully defending clients. As a board-certified criminal defense attorney and former chief prosecutor with years of experience in DWI and vehicular crimes, I have a deep understanding of the law and the prosecution's tactics. I am committed to fighting for my client's rights and helping them navigate the legal system with as little stress as possible.

Board-Certified Attorney in San Antonio, Texas

At Thornton Criminal Defense, PLLC, we believe in taking a comprehensive approach to criminal defense. We work tirelessly to investigate every aspect of the case, from analyzing the evidence and the circumstances of the arrest to challenging the prosecution's case in court.

If you or someone you know is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge, do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation at 210-439-5627. We will work tirelessly to build a strong defense and protect your rights. We are confident that we can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today to get started.

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Attorney Brad Thornton is a highly experienced and Board-Certified criminal defense lawyer. With his background as a former Chief Prosecutor, he has a unique understanding of the criminal justice system and is able to provide comprehensive and effective representation to his clients. He is also deeply committed to ensuring that all individuals receive fair treatment in court, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Brad Thornton is dedicated to helping his clients achieve the best possible outcome for their case, whether it is in San Antonio or elsewhere in South Texas. He recognizes the stress and anxiety that can come with being accused of a crime, and approaches his clients with compassion while keeping them informed at every step of the process. His knowledge and experience make him a strong advocate for his clients.

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© 2023 by Thornton Criminal Defense, PLLC. 

Atascosa County Criminal Defense Attorney

San Antonio Office:

111 Soledad, Suite 401

San Antonio, Texas 78205

Tel: 210-439-5627

Atascosa Office:

216 N Bryant St

Pleasanton, Texas 78064

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