When a driver kills someone else on the road as a result of negligent driving, that driver generally lacks the intention and malice associated with murder. This is why Texas has manslaughter charges on the books. When a driver’s negligence leaves someone else dead, manslaughter charges are intended to punish that driver for the homicide. If you are facing allegations of vehicular manslaughter, it’s in your best interest to call an experienced Killeen criminal defense lawyer right away.
Manslaughter vs. Murder
Both murder and manslaughter involve another person being killed, but there is an important distinction between the two charges. Murder charges presume that the accused had motivation for committing the crime, that he or she planned (or thought about) the crime ahead of time, and that he or she acted with the intention of killing the victim. None of these considerations, however, apply to manslaughter charges, which presume that the crime was caused by negligence or recklessness and that the accused understood that his or her negligence endangered others. For example, drivers fully understand that driving under the influence of alcohol endangers everyone with whom they share the road.
Texas sees its fair share of traffic fatalities, and these deaths are often caused by negligent drivers, including:
- Drivers who are distracted
- Drivers who are fatigued
- Drivers who are impaired
- Drivers who speed excessively (and engage in other types of aggressive driving)
The State of Texas considers these acts of negligence (or recklessness – depending upon the degree) to cause a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others. If a driver’s negligence does lead to someone else’s death, that driver can face vehicular manslaughter charges (Texas identifies these charges as simply manslaughter).
It is important to note that the victim in a manslaughter case does not have to be killed immediately for manslaughter charges to apply. If the injuries sustained in the accident directly cause the person’s death sometime in the future – whether it be weeks or months later – manslaughter charges can be brought against the negligent driver at that time.
Manslaughter charges in Texas are second-degree felony charges, and the associated fines and penalties are steep. These include up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
If a driver’s actions kill someone else on the road, but the driver was not aware of the risk involved, he or she may face charges of criminally negligent homicide rather than manslaughter. This is because the law recognizes the difference between a driver who does not understand the risk inherent to a particular action and a driver who understands and disregards that risk.
If You Have Been Accused of Manslaughter, Contact an Attorney as Soon as You Can
If you are facing manslaughter charges, attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, has the experience, commitment, and knowledge to skillfully advocate for your rights and for the best possible resolution of your case. We’re here to help, so please do not hesitate to contact or call our Bell County criminal defense lawyers at (254) 220-4225 for more information today.