Vehicular Crimes in the State of Texas
Vehicular crimes in the state of Texas encompass an extensive range of driving related offenses. The three most serious of these offenses are manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Each of these charges involves the death of another individual in a vehicular accident and can result in felony charges being filed against the responsible party. Convictions on these charges may lead to extended jail sentences and lifelong restrictions of voting rights and the right to own firearms. Obtaining the best possible legal representation against vehicular offenses can ensure a more positive outcome for your case.
Vehicular manslaughter charges result from reckless and/or negligent driving that causes the death of one or more individuals. In addition to manslaughter the Texas Transportation Code contains a number of offenses that can lead directly to charges of vehicular manslaughter, most of which relate to racing or driving exhibitions on public streets. Causing the death of another individual while driving without a valid driver’s license or without the required liability insurance or surety bond can also lead to charges of vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter is generally a second degree felony. If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and may be subject to a $10,000 fine. Fatal accidents that occur while driving without a license or without liability insurance are considered Class A misdemeanors and can lead to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Intoxication manslaughter is also a second degree felony under in most circumstances. If the person killed in the accident was a police officer, a firefighter, or an emergency medical services worker, however, the charges may be upgraded to first-degree felonies and can result in up to 99 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Criminally negligent homicide charges are state jail felonies and can be punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. In the state of Texas, however, under some circumstances a vehicle may be considered a deadly weapon. If prosecutors choose to pursue this angle of attack, they can upgrade the punishment range for criminally negligent homicide making it a third degree felony; this can result in up to 10 years in the state prison system and a fine of as much as $10,000.
Under Texas law, if a judge or jury makes a determination that the vehicle was a deadly weapon in connection with a vehicular offense conviction, then the judge by law cannot place the person on probation unless there is a recommendation from the jury to do so and the sentence is equal to or less than 10 years. This means that only a jury can give probation if there is a deadly weapon finding made, therefore a judge sentencing a defendant would be required to give at least the minimum punishment for the charged offense whether that be a first, second, or third degree vehicular related felony. The minimum punishment for a second and third degree felony is 2 years and for a first degree felony it is 5 years.
As an experienced and knowledgeable Houston criminal attorney, Matthew Gallagher can provide you with the expertise and legal acumen to defend against the serious charges you or a loved one are facing. If the case results in a trial, Matthew Gallagher can identify potentially successful defenses and can work to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury to help you beat the charges you are facing and avoid lengthy jail sentences for vehicular crimes.