A Hays County man was recently accused and found guilty of felony murder and intoxication manslaughter in connection with a DWI. These charges are rare in DWI cases, even when someone dies in an accident caused by a drunk driver. This case underlines both the severity of the consequences for drunk driving, and what can happen upon conviction for DWI.
The case began in 2014 when a well-known area realtor was seen weaving from one lane to another, and finally collided head-on with another driver. As is so often the case in these situations, the drunk driver walked away and the other driver was killed on impact. Soon after the accident, the police opened an investigation for DWI, and he was charged.
How a DWI Turned into Murder
DWI laws in Texas account for situations in which a person is killed in connection with an accident caused by a drunk driver, and the crime is known as intoxication manslaughter. Basically, if you are found guilty of DWI, cause an accident, and someone is killed, then you will be charged with intoxication manslaughter. This is a felony in Texas and can carry with it serious prison time if convicted.
In this case, the man was not only charged with intoxication manslaughter, but charged with murder, as well. The way the prosecution brought murder charges was through a controversial charge known as felony murder. It is controversial because of the leeway it gives prosecutors to charge for murder when a death was accidental, or not intentional in any way.
Typically, a murder charge is only made when a person intentionally kills another person, while knowing what they are doing is wrong. When death is caused accidentally, it is generally charged under negligent homicide, or manslaughter statutes, but there is a rare exception to these general rules, known as the felony murder rule. The felony murder rule is applied when a person is committing a felony, and during the course of committing that felony causes another person to die.
That is what happened in this case. For the accused in this case, it was not his first DWI. In fact, he had two previous DWIs, which automatically turned this DWI into a felony. Because of the felony DWI charge and because someone died, the prosecutors had the option of turning this intoxication manslaughter case into a murder charge, which they did.
Sentence and Future
After just 10 hours of deliberation, the jury came back in this case and handed down a guilty verdict on murder and intoxication manslaughter. The jury had the option of only convicting on one of the charges, but because of the case decided it was serious enough to convict on both. Then the judge handed down a sentence of 20 years on both convictions.
If you are facing a DWI charge, you need to understand how serious it is. If you are charged with DWI you need the right legal team defending your case. We are the right legal team for you at the Wilder DWI Defense Firm. When you contact us today, we will provide you with a free case evaluation.
(image courtesy of Dan Gold)