Archive for April, 2013

Intoxication Manslaughter Carries Serious Penalties for DWI Deaths


Our Texas DWI lawyers know that anyone who is found guilty of driving while intoxicated faces a potential jail sentence, a fine and other serious penalties. However, the consequences of drunk driving are far more severe if you are involved in an accident when you drink and drive. In fact, those who cause an accident that results in death can face manslaughter charges and years in prison. An intoxication manslaughter conviction carries a 120-day minimum sentence. While these accidents can be difficult for all involved, Houston DWI attorney Joseph LaBella has represented clients facing these types of serious charges. He has been successful in putting the mandatory minimum jail term at the end of a probation sentence. Clients for a variety of reasons usually want to postpone serving a jail sentence.

One recent Houston drunk driving case illustrated just how serious the outcome of a DWI manslaughter conviction can be. The 21-year-old defendant in the case was sentenced to eight years in prison.

DWI Manslaughter Leads to Eight-Year Jail Sentence

According to, the young defendant was driving home from a party on a Sunday morning two years ago. Despite the fact that he was underage at the time and had already spent the night in jail once for public intoxication, the young man was over the legal limit while driving home. As he was driving drunk, he ran through a stop sign while traveling 50 miles-per-hour, striking the vehicle of a nun who was driving at 40 miles per hour and who was on her way to her mother’s house to pick up food that had been prepared for a youth retreat.

When police arrived, they found the nun trapped in her Honda Civil behind the steering wheel. The defendant had stopped his vehicle and was leaning against his car. A BAC test showed he had a blood alcohol content of .20. The nun was taken to the hospital and died a day after the accident.

The defendant was charged with DWI manslaughter because of the death. He faced the potential for 20-years in prison, but he plead guilty to the crime and was sentenced to eight years behind bars. His attorney had sought probation but a more stringent sentence was imposed.

The defendant was very remorseful about the accident and had begged for forgiveness. The nuns who attended the trial granted that forgiveness, noting that they believed his life had been spared for a reason. His guilty plea and his heartfelt apology may have contributed to the fact that he received eight years instead of the potential two decades.

Understanding DWI Manslaughter

In Texas, various types of criminal charges are brought when someone’s actions take a life. Manslaughter charges are appropriate when someone unintentionally causes a death through grossly negligent or egregiously reckless actions. Drunk driving can lead to an intoxicated manslaughter charge, which means a person can be held responsible for a death even if he didn’t mean to cause it.

In this case, the defendant’s decision to drive drunk with a BAC of .20 was considered to be egregiously reckless, leading to his conviction. Of course, the terrible facts of the case and the fact that his victim was a nun likely created a great deal of sympathy that may have influenced the sentence that the young man ultimately received for his actions.

The case is a clear example of the fact that the consequences of a DWI can be extremely serious if a drunk driver is unlucky enough to get into a tragic accident. A drunk driving defendant charged with DWI manslaughter must retain experienced legal counsel. The state must prove both that the defendant was operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and that he or she was at fault in the accident. An aggressive defense to the DUI charge is a must, as is a thorough investigation into the causes of the collision.

You need an experienced, aggressive Texas DWI lawyer.  Call 1-800-395-5951 today for your free consultation. More than 20 years experience.

Some Texas Law Enforcement Focused on Catching DWI Drivers


Throughout Texas, police will pull you over if you are engaged in suspicious behavior that could indicate you are driving drunk. In addition to general enforcement by on-duty police on traffic patrol, there are also periodic DWI crackdowns. During these times, more police are typically put on the streets in targeted areas to focus on finding intoxicated drivers. 

While these general efforts all involve on-duty police assigned to catching drunk drivers, there are certain law enforcement agents who have made a special name for themselves in their efforts to enforce DWI laws. Our Texas DWI attorneys know that police must have probable cause to pull over and test a driver’s BAC. It is important that those police who focus on catching DWI drivers obey all of the Constitutional protections in place so that no driver has his rights violated as a result of a proactive concentrated focus on drunk driving enforcement.

Some Texas Police Excel in DWI Enforcement

Recently, NBC published an article with a profile of a Grand Prairie, Texas, police officer who has been recognized for two years in a row as one of the top ten officers for DWI arrests.

According to the NBC article, the policeman who was honored for his work in catching drunk drivers had made 88 DWI arrests in 2012 and 115 DWI arrests in 2011. He indicated that his close friend was killed in a drunk driving accident by an intoxicated driver in 2005 and that he has made it his mission to stop drunk drivers since that time. The officer says he has spent hours of time in court and dealing with paperwork. However, he believes that his efforts in curbing drunk driving and his time spent are well worth it if he can stop someone from causing a drunk driving crash.

The Grand Prairie Chief of Police indicated that this top officer fulfills his duties even as he also has other responsibilities in enforcing traffic laws and investigating car wrecks. Although the officer isn’t on DWI enforcement full time, his stats are compared to those who were hired only for DWI enforcement. Thus his feat is even more impressive as he makes so many arrests in addition to completing his normal work duties.

Protecting Constitutional Rights of Intoxicated Drivers

While police can and should work to enforce all of the laws, including DWI laws, there are some risks associated with law enforcement having a single-minded focus on catching intoxicated drivers, especially when the agenda of the police officer is factored into the equation. The concern is always whether a law enforcement agent has reasonable cause to pull over a driver. Further, once a driver has been pulled over, police cannot require a breath test or blood alcohol test unless there is reasonable cause to do so — reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk.

It is important for all police officers, especially those who are extremely proactive in enforcing DWI laws, to make sure they are following the rules so that the constitutional rights of drivers are protected. If any evidence is collected without reasonable cause, even if the officer was acting in good faith out of a genuine desire to stop drunk driving, then the evidence cannot be used in court.

You need an experienced, aggressive Texas DWI lawyer.  Call 1-800-395-5951 today for your free consultation. More than 20 years experience.