Intoxication manslaughter cases in Texas are some of the most challenging to defend, and even some of the most experienced criminal defense attorneys are not able to fight and beat these charges at trial. Those accused of intoxication manslaughter in Texas face serious penalties if convicted, including anywhere from 2-20 years in prison in addition to fines up to $10,000.

If you or someone you love are facing intoxication manslaughter charges you need to understand the challenges you’re up against. The best way to do that is to get in touch with an attorney who has both tried and beaten intoxication manslaughter charges in court. Mark Thiessen is one of the few attorneys in Texas who have ever attained a not guilty verdict from a jury for Intoxication Manslaughter. 

Get the facts and see how DWI specialist Mark Thiessen and his team at Thiessen Law Firm have helped those unfairly accused of intoxication manslaughter defend their rights and protect their freedoms.

What is intoxication manslaughter?

If you’re trying to understand intoxication manslaughter, Texas penal code section 49.08 defines intoxication manslaughter as occurring when a person: (1) operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride;  and (2) is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.

In other words, if someone operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance and causes a crash that results in the death of another person, then that someone could be charged with intoxication manslaughter.

Intoxication manslaughter is not the same as vehicular manslaughter or manslaughter. It is a separate charge with its own set of penalties.

To learn more about Intoxication Manslaughter charges in Texas, check out some of our other articles:

How Thiessen Law Firm defends those involved in intoxication manslaughter cases in Texas

Intoxication manslaughter is a complicated charge, and all intoxication manslaughter cases in Texas are unique. It’s often the subtle details that drive our defense strategies and help our clients preserve their freedom against unjust or inaccurate accusations of intoxication manslaughter.

We have helped several innocent people beat unfair intoxication manslaughter charges in court, and we’re always prepared to do it again for deserving clients who need our help.

Not Guilty, Quadruple Intoxication Manslaughter

One of the most critical details of intoxication manslaughter cases in Texas is establishing intoxication at the time of the accident. If it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated at the time of the deadly accident, then a jury should not convict you for the offense of intoxication manslaughter.

This principle, known in Texas as the “Time of Driving” rule, was put into focus in one of our biggest cases ever, Texas vs. ZM. Our client was driving home at 10 p.m. when he got into a horrible accident with another vehicle that left four passengers dead.

To make tragic matters even worse, police responders neglected several key points in their investigation, including possible traffic light defects and a massive delay in issuing any sobriety analysis — our client wasn’t even asked to take a Breathalyzer until an hour and 45 minutes after the accident. While they eventually found our client’s BAC to be .14 blood and .10 breath, the results were collected too long after the fact to paint a compelling picture. Complicating matters, our client acted normally after the accident and was fully cooperative, even offering to take sobriety tests right there on the spot. The longer the investigation went on, the worse the client looked, but at the time of driving he looked and acted sober. Expert testimony ranged from a possible .05 to a .18 at the time of driving.  

The state tried to use retrograde absorption to claim that our client had as many as nine drinks within 30 minutes before the accident. But our client didn’t even need or ask to use the restroom for four hours after the accident. The numbers simply weren’t adding up. As an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist and Houston DWI defense specialist, I knew how to challenge the bad science underlying the state’s case against my client. We fought hard and earned ten not guilty verdicts. (4x Intox Manslaughter, 1x Intox Assault, and 5x the lesser included DWI).

Not Guilty, First-Degree Intoxication Manslaughter

Another important element of proving intoxication manslaughter is establishing that the accident was the fault of the person accused. If the accident was unavoidable or caused by the other driver, intoxication manslaughter charges shouldn’t stick — even if it can be proven that the accused was intoxicated at the time of the crash.

Our client was facing 5-99 years for intoxication manslaughter due to a prior felony conviction, but the accident was unavoidable. Our client had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .19 four hours after the accident, but our accident reconstructionist was able to demonstrate that the accident was beyond the control of the accused. The reconstruction showed the victim pulled out in front of our client less than a second before impact.  The victim actually caused the accident by failing to yield right of way.  And, adding insult to injury, our forensic toxicologist found undeniable evidence of tampering with our client’s blood work, making the state’s evidence far too shaky to trust. The jury correctly found our client guilty of the lesser included DWI. but not of intoxication manslaughter. 

Our client went in facing life imprisonment but walked away with time served.

Charge Dismissed, Intoxication Manslaughter

“Not Guilty” may be our two favorite words in the English language, but that doesn’t mean it’s always an option in every intoxication manslaughter case. In Texas v. TP, our client had just gotten out of jail on a prior intoxication manslaughter conviction when his car slid off the freeway at a curve, went across the grass median and struck an oncoming vehicle, killing his passenger in the process. He was life-flighted to the hospital where his blood was drawn without a warrant. While no alcohol was present, they did find Xanax in my client’s system.

While the circumstances of my client’s case did match the legal standards for intoxication manslaughter, the rules for lawful collection of evidence still apply, and police simply did not have the right to take my client’s blood when they did. Ultimately, the prosecution agreed and dismissed the intoxication manslaughter charges in favor of intoxication assault charges, dropping the potential sentence from 15 years in prison down to 2.

Let this be a lesson: Your constitutional rights always matter, no matter what crime you are  accused of committing.

Accused of intoxication manslaughter? Work with experienced defense from Thiessen Law Firm

Fighting intoxication manslaughter cases in Texas is one of the hardest tasks a Texas lawyer can face. But as our record shows, Mark Thiessen and his team at the Thiessen Law Firm are up to that task. Mark Thiessen is Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Board Certified in DUI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, and is the only DWI lawyer to be selected as a Top 100 Super Lawyer in Texas (2019 & 2020) and Houston (2017-2020).

Don’t risk betting the fight of your life on anything but the best. Contact us today to discuss your options and get your case off to the right start with a free consultation.

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Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.