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Death By D.W.I.: Intox Manslaughter Or Murder?  
User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1600 times:

Another thread reminded me of this topic. In Texas, if one is DWI (.08 BAC, or higher) and causes an accident that results in another's death, he or she is elligible to be charged with intoxication manslaughter (intoxication assault if the other person is "merely" injured).

Here in Harris County, the District Attorney's office has been really hammering drunks, lately. They're even going so far as to charge some defendants with murder, on the basis that the person knowingly, recklessly or intentionally consumes enough alcohol to exceed the legal limit, drives and kills someone. Texas Penal Code differentiates murder from manslaughter in that murder requires intent. Manslaughter is causing a death recklessly or knowing that one's actions could cause death.

IMO, good on 'em. I feel murder is an appropriate charge, as any reasonable person knows that alcoholic beverages depress the nervous system and impair judgment. By getting behind the wheel, logic says that person's intent is to drive. No one accidentally pounds booze or mistakenly gets behind the wheel, so - in my eyes - the criteria has been met for the higher charge.

Floor's open for opinion, comparison and personal experience.

31 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineMDorBust From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1591 times:

Personally, I also believe that a murder charge is appropriate. If the effects of alcohol were not as widely published as they are, I wouldn't support doing so. However, the effects of drinking and driving are drilled into everyone on TV, the radio, billboards, electronic traffic control signs, print media, and every piece of TxDOT literature ever.

Personally I can't imagine a single person managing to make it to the age of sixteen without fully knowing the consequences driving intoxicated. If you put yourself in a position to be driving intoxicated, you are knowingly making yourself a lethal weapon.


User currently offlineAerobalance From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 4682 posts, RR: 46
Reply 2, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1588 times:

Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
opinion



Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
logic says

Right there I have an issue with that, where does it state, in any law that a person must use proper logic. If the ramifications of a death fall into either murder...

Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
Texas Penal Code differentiates murder from manslaughter in that murder requires intent

or manslaughter...

Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
Manslaughter is causing a death recklessly or knowing that one's actions could cause death.

...
then the appropriate charge should be filed.

It sounds to me as if this D.A. has higher aspirations...

I do believe that road vehicles need some sort of breath-analyzer lock that will only allow below limit operators to drive.



"Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy..."
User currently offlineAirCop From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1584 times:

If the driver was an .08 BAC and lets say one violation which resulted in another death I would have a problem with the murder charge. Now if the guy/gal is .24 BAC, drag racing, or has a list of priors, then for all means go for the murder charge. In my county the only ones being charged with murder in the second degree are the high BA, and the death was the result of horrible driving behavior, like running a red light at 65mph..Of course one thing to charge another to get a conviction.

User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1571 times:

Quoting Aerobalance (Reply 2):
Right there I have an issue with that, where does it state, in any law that a person must use proper logic.

Its not written anywhere, to my knowledge, but having it written somewhere isn't necessary. The basis for the Texas Penal Code is what would a "reasonable person" believe is unlawful. "Reasonable" people have some ability to think logically. I can't think of an instance where a "reasonable" person would believe consuming a 12-pack of beer shortly before driving is lawful.


User currently offlineAirCop From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1566 times:

Question for you IAH777, how many years ago did Texas finally passedan open container law? I believe Texas was one of or was the last state to make it illegal to drink alcohol in a motor vehicle.

User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1562 times:

Its been three years (I think). Used to be the driver could just hand his can o' Lone Star Light to the back seat passenger and all was legit. Still, I see people stopping by the corner store for a tall boy on the drive home. Amazing....

User currently offlineMDorBust From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1555 times:

I believe the open container law went into effect September 2001.

User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1551 times:

Quoting MDorBust (Reply 7):
I believe the open container law went into effect September 2001.

That long? Yeesh...how time flies. The academy still seems so fresh in my mind, but I just hit six years.  old 


User currently offlineVikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 10031 posts, RR: 26
Reply 9, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 1549 times:
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Feelnigs aside, I'd say that the letter of law would dictate a charge of manslaughter.

Far as I know, murder requires intent to kill. Drunk drivers do not typically intend to kill someone.

However, they do (or should) know that their actions could result in injury or death, which suggests the manslaughter charge.

Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
By getting behind the wheel, logic says that person's intent is to drive.

What if I cause an accident where someone is killed, but I'm not under the influence? My intent was still to drive. So I think that criteria cannot be utilized.

~Vik



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineIAH777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 0 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 1537 times:

Quoting Vikkyvik (Reply 9):
What if I cause an accident where someone is killed, but I'm not under the influence?

All valid points (Aerobalance's, as well). In your example, I'd need to know if there were any other factors, such as excessive speed, weaving, driving the wrong way, etc. I concede that the manslaughter charge fits the criteria best, but I still believe there is a level of intent enough to consider the higher charge, or at least, present it to the Grand Jury. In my mind, if I know I am impaired by alcohol and I know I'm a danger to the public, but choose to drive anyway, I show intent. Just my opinion. I don't expect everyone to agree.

Just for reference, I've copied the statutes from the Texas Penal Code:

Quote:
§ 19.02. MURDER. (a) In this section:
(1) "Adequate cause" means cause that would commonly
produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person
of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool
reflection.
(2) "Sudden passion" means passion directly caused by
and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another
acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of
the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.
(b) A person commits an offense if he:
(1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an
individual;
(2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits
an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an
individual; or
(3) commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than
manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the
commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission
or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly
dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.



Quote:
§ 19.04. MANSLAUGHTER. (a) A person commits an offense
if he recklessly causes the death of an individual.



Quote:
§ 19.05. CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE. (a) A person
commits an offense if he causes the death of an individual by
criminal negligence.


User currently offlineQueso From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 1526 times:

Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
IMO, good on 'em. I feel murder is an appropriate charge, as any reasonable person knows that alcoholic beverages depress the nervous system and impair judgment. By getting behind the wheel, logic says that person's intent is to drive. No one accidentally pounds booze or mistakenly gets behind the wheel, so - in my eyes - the criteria has been met for the higher charge.

I agree.

Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
Floor's open for opinion, comparison and personal experience.

Ok.





User currently offlineConnies4ever From Canada, joined Feb 2006, 4066 posts, RR: 13
Reply 12, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 1523 times:

Quoting IAH777 (Thread starter):
Another thread reminded me of this topic. In Texas, if one is DWI (.08 BAC, or higher) and causes an accident that results in another's death, he or she is elligible to be charged with intoxication manslaughter (intoxication assault if the other person is "merely" injured).



Quoting MDorBust (Reply 1):
Personally, I also believe that a murder charge is appropriate. If the effects of alcohol were not as widely published as they are, I wouldn't support doing so. However, the effects of drinking and driving are drilled into everyone on TV, the radio, billboards, electronic traffic control signs, print media, and every piece of TxDOT literature ever.



Quoting AirCop (Reply 3):
If the driver was an .08 BAC and lets say one violation which resulted in another death I would have a problem with the murder charge. Now if the guy/gal is .24 BAC, drag racing, or has a list of priors, then for all means go for the murder charge

All very valid and interesting p.o.v., gentlemen/ladies. To note: at 0.24 BAC you are not capable of making an informed opinion (in Canada anyway), so there can be an argument made that 'the host' (a bar, your friend at his/her house) has a duty and responsibility to _prevent_ you from using your vehicle.

Quoting IAH777 (Reply 4):
The basis for the Texas Penal Code is what would a "reasonable person" believe is unlawful.

Generally the basis for all penal law in North America - British Common Law. The 'reasonable person' test. But each incremental unit of alcohol consumed decreases one's ability to evaluate oneself by anything like the reasonalbe person test. You get to the point where you think you can still do it, but you can't. I've been there, fortunately pulled back and slept over.

Aug 6, 1971. I was in a fatal crash. Both drivers had been drinking -- and me too, quite honestly (was not driving). Ultimately, no criminal charges laid. I knew better. I was with a very pretty young lady, 17 years old. It was a hell of a first date.

To all: take it seriously.



Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
User currently offlineFumanchewd From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 1512 times:

There has been recent evidence that cell phones drivers are more dangerous then drunk drivers.

http://www.psych.utah.edu/AppliedCog...itionLab/DrivingAssessment2003.pdf

I am not condoning drunk driving but I am questioning why states give out tickets for people who run red lights and cell phone talkers while putting people who drink and drive in prison.

A big part of it is MADD's government lobbying and the Federal highway funds that are taken from a state if it does not comply with the standards.

If someone gets into an accident because they ran a red light, they will most likely do no jail time while people who get pulled over drunk (without an accident)can do months or years.

If this law is passed what next? Everyone who gets a DUI will be charged for attempted murder?

I am only asking for equity. If people get into an accident for drinking, talking on cell phones, or running red lights they should be punished in the same manner.

We found that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit” of 0.08 percent, which is the minimum level that defines illegal drunken driving in most U.S. states, says study co-author Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology. “If legislators really want to address driver distraction, then they should consider outlawing cell phone use while driving.”

http://unews.utah.edu/p/?r=062206-1


User currently offlineMDorBust From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 1509 times:

Quoting Fumanchewd (Reply 13):
I am not condoning drunk driving but I am questioning why states give out tickets for people who run red lights and cell phone talkers while putting people who drink and drive in prison.

You can hang up a cell phone or ignore the person on the other end. You can't ignore drunk.

In regards to the study, the just hit the legal blood alcohol level. Most drunk drivers can't manage that little trick and are well over it. The study also didn't test the drunk drivers when they were tired and visability was reduced. Like it is at night when the bars close.

Not completely disagreeing, most cell phone drivers are accidents waiting to happen, just point out some issues with the study.


User currently offlineFumanchewd From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 1500 times:

Quoting MDorBust (Reply 14):
Not completely disagreeing, most cell phone drivers are accidents waiting to happen, just point out some issues with the study.

Yeah, I hear you. It just distrubs me that the sentences for dui offenders are vastly different then for someone who ran a red light on purpose or for that matter for people who get in accidents while talking on a cell phone.


User currently offlineCastleIsland From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1486 times:

Lots of valid points here, but what about the blind drunk idiot who has absolutely no idea what he's doing? While he may have known while he/she was getting drunk that he/she shouldn't drive, there are times when people get drunk past the point of reason. Of course they shouldn't be driving, but sometimes it is not prevented.

You can't possibly slam intent on someone who's so blind drunk that they cannot remember where they are or what decision they are making unconciously, even if they are the worst thing on the road at the time. Driving home is so habitual that this can happen without the drunk even knowing that it is. So, where do we draw the line here?

Look, I know this will probably be an unpopular position, but putting a blanket murder charge on a drunk driver cannot make sense, even if it seems like the right thing to do. There has to be intent to call them a murderer. A drop dead drunk can drive home, but have no understanding of how he/she did it. It's often the case that there are instances where there was no understanding of what he/she was doing, it was just instinct. Can't condone it, but it's hard for me to give them a murder charge in that state, as reprehensible as it is to drive that way.


User currently offlineMDorBust From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1483 times:

Here's my take on that angle Castleisland.

When I'm out to get drunk, my keys go into my pistol safe. And yes, so does my weapon. This happens before I take a single drink because I know for certain that rational decision making is the first victim of drinking and I won't risk taking the chance that my intoxicated brain does something very very stupid.

In short, the criminal intent isn't when the drunk person decides to drive but when they are sober and chose not to take steps to ensure they won't drive while drunk.


User currently offlineQueso From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 18, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting CastleIsland (Reply 16):
You can't possibly slam intent on someone who's so blind drunk that they cannot remember where they are or what decision they are making unconciously, even if they are the worst thing on the road at the time.

I think the crime starts long before that though. When one orders the first drink with car keys in their pocket, they are potentially in a position equivilant to planning an assault or murder. Everything that happens after that point can be prevented by simply surrendering the keys before the first drink, when one is "of sound mind". Not doing so can be looked upon as "intent".

Quoting CastleIsland (Reply 16):
putting a blanket murder charge on a drunk driver cannot make sense, even if it seems like the right thing to do.

Well, maybe as a deterrent we could make castration the penalty for a first offense and hold off on the death penalty until the second offense. We'll figure out something for the Fifi's too.

Edit: Damn, MD beat me to it. We said almost the same thing.

[Edited 2007-01-20 03:53:17]

User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13115 posts, RR: 12
Reply 19, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1479 times:

Typically, a DWI based manslaughter conviction is a Felony in the USA with a sentence is 2 to 4 years, where at least one person is killed, with much longer sentences where multiple persons are killed or in some states for severe drunk driving above .15 BAC. Rarely will the sentence be shorted by parole. You may also get to serve time in full prison, not a 'minimum security' facility, thus subject to the abuses one can face there. You may also be under probation for years thereafter.
In most cases, one will also lose the privilege (yes, it isn't a right) to have a drivers licence for several years beyond their sentence or even for life and may be denied from obtaining a commercial, bus or school bus licence for life. In most states they will probably have to go to rehabilitation at their costs and pay huge dollar fines. You may also be denied the right to vote in elections for many years or for the rest of your life.
Then one may face the liability costs not covered by their insurance, or for court judgements. One may lose all their assets including their family home, car, other possessions, or assessed to pay damages perhaps for the rest of their life. It may be impossible to get a decent paying job since you are a felony ex-convict and cannot drive to/from one.
Then you have the guilt and problems one has in their head about their crime as well as the shame and hurt upon their family and their friends. That is sentence for life too.
I also think there should be jail time (like 6 months to a year) for where people are crippled or seriously injured in a DWI accident.


User currently offlineCastleIsland From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1469 times:

Quoting MDorBust (Reply 17):



Quoting Queso (Reply 18):

Well, without quoting your comments directly, I do agree, to a point. But reality is that some people don't take such precautions. While I do condemn such actions, I know it happens, and it's hard to give someone a murder charge if they are completely lacking understanding of what they are doing, even if they are doing it.


User currently offlineQueso From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1468 times:

Quoting CastleIsland (Reply 20):
it's hard to give someone a murder charge if they are completely lacking understanding of what they are doing, even if they are doing it.

And I see your point, too. The problem here is that people don't even think about the consequences of their actions before they start drinking, or they have a "it can't happen to me" attitude. If they are made aware that driving while intoxicated will cause the entirety of their future to be spent in jail maybe they will more carefully consider their actions.

It all comes down to responsibility and being held accountable for one's actions.


User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 22, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1465 times:

I say it's murder. Take a life by being an any means other then defending your own and you deserve to loose yours.

User currently offlineCastleIsland From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1458 times:

Quoting TedTAce (Reply 22):
I say it's murder. Take a life by being an any means other then defending your own and you deserve to loose yours.

Ted, I understand, but you've not read my earlier posts.


User currently offlineTedTAce From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (7 years 8 months 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1451 times:

Quoting CastleIsland (Reply 23):
but you've not read my earlier posts.

Nope, If I had time for, or wanted to debate this I would have copied parts of everyone's quotes and reacted to each of them like in the days I could post from work. I'm sure you make reasonable points, but I am a big fan of personal responsibility. Alcohol is a copout to being responsibile.


25 Post contains images IAH777 : I agree. Not everyone drinks and even fewer drink and drive. But I don't know a single person who won't answer a call while driving. I bought a Bluet
26 Post contains images Allstarflyer : Personally, I don't like that definition. I believe it should read "an action that unknowingly could cause death", or something to that effect - for
27 Post contains images IAH777 : This is where the Grand Jury comes into play. I can see a "no bill" in this case, as - like you described - no one is typically around. If a tree fal
28 Vikkyvik : I still only see "intent to drive" there, and not "intent to kill." I would like to think that that would be the case. However, being young and stupi
29 Fumanchewd : I'm sure that it changes from state to state but I've met three people who were sentenced to DWI manslaughter and one had a sentence of 7 years, one
30 Dougloid : To tell you the truth, fellows, I just flat ass don't make a habit of drinking any more. For all the good it does one, I've got no use for it at all a
31 767Lover : Went out for dinner this evening and had 2 glasses of wine over the course of almost 3 hours. Hardly a drink-fest or a rowdy night of partying. Just f
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