The Texas Penal Code lists both manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide as criminal offenses, but the crimes are referred to as vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide when either offense involves a death caused by a motor vehicle. The offenses have different classifications and the crime a person may be charged with depends on whether their actions are deemed reckless or negligent.
Several people involved in automobile accidents will be overwhelmed with many other issues relating to their own physical conditions and insurance rates, so being charged with a crime can be jarring and confusing. Convictions for vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide usually have significant consequences for people.
Vehicular Homicide / Manslaughter Defense Lawyer in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, and Southlake, TX
If you or your loved one has been arrested for an alleged vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide offense in the greater Fort Worth area, you are going to need to have legal representation on your side. Make sure to contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy. Our firm represents people in communities all over Tarrant County.
Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today at (817) 422-5350 for a consultation about your alleged offense in Southlake, Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, and surrounding areas of Tarrant County, TX area. We can help you better understand the nature of your charges and also examine your possible defense options.
Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter Charges in Tarrant County
Under Texas Penal Code § 19.04, a person commits manslaughter if they recklessly cause the death of another person. Texas Penal Code § 19.05 establishes that a person commits the crime of criminally negligent homicide if they cause the death of an individual by criminal negligence.
Texas Penal Code § 6.03(c) states that an individual acts recklessly, or is reckless, regarding circumstances surrounding their conduct or the result of their conduct when they are aware of but consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or a result will occur. A risk needs to be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from a person’s standpoint.
Texas Penal Code § 6.03(d) establishes that a person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, regarding circumstances surrounding their conduct or the result of their conduct when they ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. A risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the person’s standpoint.
Manslaughter is classified as a second-degree felony. Criminally negligent homicide will be a state jail felony.
Both manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges can stem from traffic violations in Texas. For example, people can face Class B misdemeanor charges if accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI) under Texas Penal Code § 49.08, Class A misdemeanor charges for driving with a suspended license under Texas Transportation Code § 521.457, or second-degree felony charges under Texas Transportation Code § 545.420 relating to racing on a highway.
Drunk driving could also result in a person being charged with intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.07, a person commits intoxication assault when they, by accident or mistake while operating an aircraft, watercraft, or amusement ride while intoxicated, or while operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, cause serious bodily injury to another person or as the result of assembling a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated cause serious bodily injury to another person. Under Texas Penal Code § 49.08, a person commits intoxication manslaughter if they operate a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride, are intoxicated, and by reason of that intoxication cause the death of another person by accident or mistake.
Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter Penalties in Texas
The consequences of convictions for criminal charges depend on the offenses a person has been charged with. In general, statutory maximum sentences allowable by Texas law are as follows:
- Class B Misdemeanor — Up to 180 days in jail and/or fine of up to $2,000
- Class A Misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and/or fine of up to $4,000
- State Jail Felony — Up to two years in state jail and/or fine of up to $10,000
- Third-Degree Felony — Up to 10 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000
- Second-Degree Felony — Up to 20 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000
Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter Defenses in Tarrant County
In most vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter cases, an alleged offender is going to want to focus on the actions they took before a collision. Because the state needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was reckless or negligent, the alleged offender will want to demonstrate that they acted in accordance with the law and that an accident could not be avoided.
In some cases, it may be possible that the victim in a fatal traffic crash was actually the party at fault. An experienced lawyer is going to know what evidence to look for and how to present it in court to help take the blame off of yourself.
Fort Worth Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter Resources
Culpable Mental States | Texas Municipal Courts Education Center — Again, the culpability of an alleged offender can be very important to manslaughter and homicide cases. View a presentation discussing the different culpable mental states, how these states play into the formulation of crimes, and issues relating to alleging and proving culpable mental states. As the presentation notes, just because no culpable mental state is contained in an offense does not mean that a culpable mental state is not required.
Vehicular homicide sentences not harsh enough, say victims’ families — View an October 2013 Columbus Dispatch article that discusses the different attitudes people may have about the penalties for reckless driving convictions. While the story is based in Ohio, many of the same feelings are shared among people in Texas. As the article points out, many victims have a tendency to feel that sentences for certain offenses are not strong enough while other people think the sentences can be too harsh for people who have accidentally cause the deaths of others.
Ervin v. State, 991 S.W.2d 804 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999) — Pursuant to a plea agreement, Patrick Ervin was convicted of intoxication manslaughter and manslaughter arising out of a traffic accident involving a single victim occurring on July 12, 1995. The trial court sentenced him to 25 years for each offense and ordered the sentences to run concurrently. In a pro se application for writ of habeas corpus, Ervin complained that permitting both convictions for this single instance of conduct violates the Fifth Amendment’s protection against double jeopardy. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas concluded that manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter were the same offense for double jeopardy purposes when they involve the same victim, and imposing convictions for both in this situation violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. Although this case involved a plea agreement, the State did not request that the guilty plea be set aside, nor did the State request that the Court of Criminal Appeals try to effectuate the agreement by reforming one of the convictions to a lesser-included offense that would not be considered the “same” offense. Instead the State suggested in its answer that the Court of Criminal Appeals vacate the first conviction, which is manslaughter. The Court of Criminal Appeals implied that the State could be able to waive an illegal portion of a judgment and maintain the remainder of the plea agreement. It expressly held that today and found that the State had done so in this case. It granted applicant relief and directed the trial court to vacate the manslaughter conviction while retaining the conviction for intoxication manslaughter.
Find A Tarrant County Defense Attorney for Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
Were you or your loved one arrested for vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter in Fort Worth or another area of Tarrant County? You need to take the charges very seriously because the prosecutor handling your case is probably going to be looking to have you locked up for a long time.
Call (817) 422-5350 or contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today for a consultation about your alleged offense in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, and surrounding areas of Denton County, Texas.