Posted on 10/17/22

With the holidays coming up, law enforcement officers will increase their monitoring of intoxicated drivers. Every year intoxicated drivers cause fatal accidents all across Texas. When a person gets behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated and kills someone else, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter Charges

Murder and manslaughter charges are both criminal charges that involve a defendant killing another person. The difference between murder in the first and second degree and manslaughter charges involves intent. With murder charges, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to kill the victim. On the contrary, with manslaughter charges, prosecutors do not have to prove that the driver intended to kill the victim. 

Instead, prosecutors only need to prove that the act was because of recklessness or negligence. In Texas, multiple types of manslaughter charges often come with less serious penalties than other types of homicide charges due to a lack of intent or recklessness.

The Definition of Vehicular Manslaughter

Under Texas law, manslaughter occurs when someone recklessly causes another person’s death. When the person who caused the other person’s death was operating a motor vehicle recklessly, that person can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. A person can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter if they recklessly operate a motor vehicle and cause the death of another person. Most vehicular homicide charges are punishable as a felony of the second degree.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

A person can also be charged with vehicular homicide if they operate a car with criminal negligence and cause another person’s death. In Texas, criminally negligent homicide is usually punished as a Texas jail felony.

Racing on the Highway

When a person is racing on a highway, competing in a drag race or acceleration contest, testing a vehicle’s speed, or otherwise racing, and causes a person’s death, the driver can face vehicular manslaughter charges. Similarly, if a driver causes another person’s death while operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license or vehicle liability insurance, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. This specific offense is typically punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.

The Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in Texas

The penalties for vehicular manslaughter are serious in Texas. The specific penalty will depend on the type of statutory crime with which the defendant has been charged. State jail felony convictions can result in a jail sentence between 180 days and two years and a fine of up to $10,000. Second-degree felonies carry a jail sentence of between two and 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Finally, an offense that is a felony in the first degree can result in a prison sentence ranging from five years to 99 years or life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Charged With Vehicular Homicide? You Need an Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with vehicular homicide in Texas, you need an aggressive Dallas/Fort Worth criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact Abel Law Firm today to schedule your free case evaluation and learn more about how we can protect your rights and your future.

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Phone: 972.584.7837

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