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What Is Intoxication Manslaughter?

Published: Sep 11, 2017 in Criminal Defense, DUI

The State of Texas has a law in place that specifically categorizes the act of homicide as it occurs in situations during which an intoxicated individual operating a motor vehicle causes the death of another person. This crime is referred to in the State as intoxication manslaughter. Texas identifies this type of manslaughter as an independent offense. Other terms for the similar or same offense are used in other states and include DUI causing injury or death, DUI manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Are you currently facing an intoxication manslaughter charge in Texas? If so, you are going to need a strong and focused defense working on your behalf to minimize the consequences you’re facing. You can count on our Houston DWI attorneys at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett to ensure your rights are protected as we seek to minimize, or, if possible – get your charges dismissed.

Call us today at (713) 222-6767 or for a free, no obligation consultation.

Intoxication Manslaughter Defined

Under Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.08, intoxicated manslaughter is defined as a person operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated and causes the death of another person by accident or mistake. The death need not occur immediately at the time of the incident – it can occur much later as a result of the injuries suffered by the victim after the accident. As well, the person who is killed may be a pedestrian, the occupant of another vehicle, or a passenger in the driver’s vehicle. The location of the victim during the accident does not matter with respect to the legitimacy of the charge.

Means of Intoxication

When an individual is intoxicated, their physical and mental capabilities are affected to a significant degree. The two most common causes of intoxication are the use of alcohol and illegal drugs. However, intoxication can also result from taking prescription medications or the consumption of multiple substances simultaneously.

How an individual feels does not determine whether or not they are intoxicated. It may be possible for someone to feel normal and still have a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit. In such cases, you are still legally intoxicated regardless of whether you feel drunk or high.

Voluntary Intoxication

An individual who is deemed responsible for the crime of intoxication manslaughter must have been under a voluntary state of intoxication. If you knowingly become intoxicated through the consumption of alcohol, controlled substances, prescription medications, etc. and then proceed to operate a motor vehicle that results in the death of another person, you will be subject to this manslaughter charge. However, if you become involuntarily intoxicated by a drug or substance given to you without your knowledge or consent, and the death of another person results, you cannot be found legally accountable for the resulting death.

Use of Other Vehicles or Devices

The major application of the intoxication manslaughter law applies to individuals driving a vehicle while intoxicated and causing the death of another person. However, the law may also apply to circumstances in which a person operates another type of vehicle or device such as a boat, aircraft, or amusement ride equipment. The law in Texas specifically addresses persons intoxicated who assemble or operate an amusement park ride that leads to someone’s death. In such cases the individual may be charged with intoxication or vehicular manslaughter.


Under Texas law, an action that takes another person’s life is considered a highly serious crime. Although manslaughter does not rise to the level of murder in its severity under the law, it is still a crime for which you will endure significant penalties.

Second Degree Felony
Under most circumstances the crime of intoxication manslaughter is charged as a second-degree felony. Penalties imposed for this crime range from two to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

First Degree Felony
Other circumstances as provided under the Texas Penal Code allow for intoxication manslaughter to be charged as a first-degree felony when the intoxication and subsequent crash result in the death of one or more on-duty police officers, firefighters, or emergency medical services personnel. The penalties imposed for a first-degree felony in such cases can range from a minimum of five to a maximum of 99 years (or life) in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Additional Consequences
Beyond the legal penalties described above, a conviction on the charge of intoxication manslaughter may require the convicted offender to pay all required court costs and fees, perform up to or over 1,000 hours of community service, have an interlock device installed on any vehicle they intend to operate, and complete a state-approved drug or alcohol education program.


A particular issue that must be addressed as it relates to intoxication manslaughter cases is the issue of causation. While driving a motor vehicle that results in the death of another person, intoxication alone does not establish the necessary link between the behavior and the person’s death.

For example, although you may be found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, the accident which subsequently occurs and results in the death of another person may actually be the result of the recklessness or carelessness of another driver or pedestrian in the vicinity. Therefore, sufficient causation must be established along with the fact of driving while intoxicated in order to arrive at the legal justification for an intoxication manslaughter conviction.

The Texas Penal Code Section 6.04 addresses the issue of causation directly. It states, “a person is criminally responsible if the result would not have occurred but for his conduct, operating either alone or concurrently with another cause, unless the concurrent cause was clearly sufficient to produce the result and the conduct of the actor clearly insufficient.”

In effect, this means that despite circumstances in which intoxicated driving may not be the only cause of the death, it is still justifiable to arrive at a conviction of intoxication manslaughter unless:

  • Another cause is found sufficient to have caused the death
  • The defendant’s actions were clearly not sufficient to cause the resulting death

Contact an Experienced Texas Intoxication Manslaughter Attorney

If you have been charged and arrested with the crime of intoxication or vehicular manslaughter, it is vital to obtain experienced legal counsel to protect you against the charges you’re now facing. An intoxicated manslaughter lawyer at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett is able to build a strong legal defense on your behalf to secure the most favorable outcome possible.

To schedule a free case evaluation, call us now at (713) 222-6767.