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.

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