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The basics of vehicular manslaughter in Texas

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2021 | Federal Crimes

Though definitions vary from state to state, manslaughter essentially involves the unlawful killing of one individual without any malicious aforethought by the offender. In other words, a person commits manslaughter when he or she accidentally takes the life of another without showing any intent to kill or harm, or without exhibiting an extreme disregard for life.

Most states categorize manslaughter as either “voluntary” or “involuntary.” Texas is not one such state. The Lone Star State lumps both types of crimes into a single offense and doles out enhanced penalties if certain circumstances exist. According to FindLaw, two types of manslaughter charges Texas treats separately are vehicular manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter.

Vehicular and intoxication manslaughter

In Texas, the only thing the prosecution needs to prove in manslaughter cases is that the defendant acted recklessly, and that said recklessness resulted in the victim’s death. It does not need to prove that the defendant acted with knowledge or intent. Though there are many situations in which a person’s reckless behavior can cause harm, such situations most commonly involve vehicles.

In Texas, vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person drives a vehicle or another vessel recklessly and thereby causes the death of another individual or individuals. The state considers amusement park rides “vessels.”

Intoxication manslaughter occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of another person while intoxicated. The offense does not necessarily have to involve a vehicle.

Consequences for vehicular and intoxication manslaughter

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Texas classifies both intoxication and vehicular manslaughter as second-degree felony offenses. A conviction can result in anywhere between two and 20 years for the offender and a fine of up to $10,000.