According to The Texas Tribune, a motorist recently killed eight people and injured ten more when he ran a red light and crashed directly into a bus stop adjacent to a migrant center in Brownsville. The man has been charged with manslaughter, but investigations into his intent in the matter continue.
This tragic event highlights the immense risk associated with reckless driving. If you are facing a criminal charge of any kind, protecting your rights from the outset is key. For that, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.
The motorist, George Alvarez, is a 34-year-old man who ran a red light and lost control of his SUV. This disaster happened directly in front of the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, which houses many people experiencing homelessness. The police reported that Alvarez tried to flee the scene, but several bystanders blocked his retreat until the authorities arrived.
According to the press conference held by the police, Alvarez has a lengthy criminal history that includes assault charges against an elderly person, a public servant, and a family member. According to The New York Times, other charges include burglary, theft, and driving while intoxicated.
This recent crash led to eight manslaughter charges and ten assault with a deadly weapon charges in addition to a charge of reckless driving. The man’s bail was set at $3.6 million.
For his part, Alvarez hasn’t cooperated with investigators – refusing to submit to both fingerprinting and a breathalyzer and using a variety of names.
A blood test was conducted, and questions about whether or not Alvarez was intoxicated will be answered when the results are obtained. Additional reports reveal that Alvarez had cocaine, benzodiazepines, and marijuana in his system, but further testing needs to be conducted before the amounts are known.
It’s important to note that if Alvarez’s actions are determined to have been deliberate, he will almost certainly face more serious charges.
Surveillance video of the crash in question shows all of the following events in the tragic crash:
About twelve people – all migrants who had recently arrived in the U.S. – were sitting or standing in a line along the bus stop’s sidewalk.
A speeding SUV ran a red light, flipped on its side, and plowed into the center of the group.
Victims were thrown into the surrounding area – scattering clothing, shoes, and debris in the process.
New footage confirms that the gray Range Rover endured considerable damage before coming to a stop in the middle of the road.
Were Alvarez’s Actions Deliberate?
Reports confirm that when Alvarez left his vehicle, he spouted anti-immigrant slurs at the group, which consisted mostly of Venezuelan men who had recently arrived in Brownsville and were seeking asylum. The Ozanam Center, where the crash occurred, is Brownsville’s largest homeless shelter, and it often serves as a landing spot for those who cross the border from Mexico.
The End of Title 42
Brownsville and other border cities like it have seen an influx of migrants anticipating a shift in immigration laws, specifically Title 42. Title 42 was imposed in the early days of the pandemic with the intent of expediting the expulsion of those crossing the border. The legislation was viewed as a significant hurdle for those seeking asylum in the U.S.
Title 42 expired on May 11, and the change is expected to prove more welcoming to the many Venezuelans who are driven to seek asylum in this country by their desperate attempts to escape crushing poverty and oppression.
For its part, Brownsville has extended local disaster relief in order to “proactively address the influx of border crossings and to support and alleviate the process and transfer of migrants in a humanitarian way.”
The Governor’s Response
In response to the quick succession of both the Allen Mall and Brownsville tragedies, the governor of Texas announced that he was deploying 450 National Guard soldiers – called the Texas Tactical Border Force – to the state’s southern border prior to Title 42’s end.
Title 42 has been in place since the pandemic’s start, and it allowed immigration officials to swiftly expel 2.7 million migrants before they had the opportunity to request asylum. As the current administration prepares to officially end the pandemic-based health emergency, Title 42 will also wrap up.
Vehicular Manslaughter in the State of Texas
Traffic accidents are common throughout the nation, and Texas is no exception. When a car accident proves fatal, it can lead to vehicular manslaughter charges – even if the fatal accident was strictly a matter of driver negligence.
While there is no specific vehicular manslaughter statute in Texas, a motorist whose negligence leads to the death of another can face criminal charges. The most common underlying causes for charges related to vehicular manslaughter include the following offenses:
Driving with a suspended license
Reckless or negligent driving
When a motorist operates a vehicle with criminal negligence, it can lead to criminally negligent homicide charges. These charges are incredibly serious, so do not face them without the guidance of a skilled Killeen criminal defense lawyer.
In Texas – like in other states – motorists are considered to be legally intoxicated when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08 percent. However, if a motorist’s ability to operate a vehicle safely is affected by less alcohol than the legal limit, it is still illegal. The penalties for DWI charges increase according to the number of offenses on the accused’s record.
A First Offense
A first DWI offense can lead to the following consequences:
A mandatory 3 days in jail with a sentence of up to 180 days
Up to $2,000 in fines
Up to a year of driver’s license suspension
A Second Offense
A second DWI offense can saddle the accused with all the following consequences:
A jail sentence of from one month to a year
Up to $4,000 in fines
Up to two years of driver’s license suspension
A Third Offense
A third offense is more serious still and can lead to each of the following consequences:
A prison sentence of from two to ten years
Up to $10,000 in fines
Up to two years of driver’s license suspension
With a Child Passenger
When the accused motorist has a passenger who is under the age of 15 at the time of arrest, it can lead to child endangerment charges. Such charges can lead to additional fines of up to $10,000, an additional jail sentence of up to 2 years, and another 180 days of license suspension.
While most DWI offenses in Texas are charged as misdemeanors, they can be charged as felonies when the accused has multiple prior offenses, when there is a child passenger, and when an injury-causing accident is involved.
Driving with a Suspended License
Driving with a suspended license in the State of Texas is a Class B misdemeanor that can lead to from 72 hours of jail time to 6 months behind bars. Related fines generally range from $100 to $500. The most common causes of license suspension include the following offenses:
Automatic suspension related to criminally negligent homicide involving a vehicle, fleeing or eluding the police in a vehicle, driving while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident that leads to injuries or death
Habitual traffic suspension related to four or more moving violations in one year or seven or more moving violations in two years
Serious accident suspension related to causing a crash that leads to serious injuries or death
Driver negligence refers to a motorist’s failure to live up to their responsibility to others on the road, which is called a duty of care. When motorists fail to drive safely, they’re deemed negligent, and this negligence is often at the heart of dangerous car accidents. While driver negligence can take nearly any form, most fall into the following categories:
Failure to follow the rules of the road
Reckless driving refers to having a “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others on the road. Reckless driving moves beyond mere negligence and involves the driver understanding that their actions behind the wheel are likely to cause considerable harm but proceeding anyway. Reckless driving, in other words, is a step closer to causing harm intentionally.
While driver recklessness is a form of negligence, it can level up the possible charges. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor that can lead to fines of up to $200 and jail time of up to 30 days.
Murder vs. Manslaughter
For the charge of murder to apply, the accused must have knowingly and purposely caused someone else's death. The critical difference between the charge of murder and manslaughter involves the accused's intent.
While many states distinguish between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, Texas is not one of them. Instead, Texas imposes enhanced penalties when specific aggravating factors are involved.
Further, Texas is the only state that has a specific “intoxication manslaughter” charge on the books. This charge applies when an impaired defendant causes the death of someone else.
In Texas, manslaughter charges are second-degree felonies that carry 2 to 20 years of prison time and fines of up to $10,000. If you are facing manslaughter charges, contact a knowledgeable Killeen criminal defense attorney for help fighting for your case’s best possible resolution.
In order for murder charges to apply in Alvarez’s case, the prosecution would need to prove intent, which means that Alvarez must have acted with the intention of killing one or more of his victims – a high legal bar. Further, the state must prove the intent beyond reasonable doubt, which means that the jury must find there is no other reasonable explanation for Alvarez’s actions.
Proving the element of intent tends to be the most challenging component of criminal cases. Intent can be proven through direct evidence, indirect evidence, or both.
Direct evidence refers to physical evidence that can be seen, heard, or held. For example, if the suspect expresses their intent to commit an act and the expression is caught on tape, it is physical evidence of intent, but the matter is rarely this straightforward.
Other common forms of direct evidence that support intent include the following sources:
Diary entries or letters that express the defendant’s focus on committing the crime in question
Witnesses with whom the defendant shared their intent
The defendant’s confession of intent
Eyewitnesses who watch the defendant act with deliberation and intent
Social media is another venue that can offer direct evidence about intent. When a defendant has ranted and raved on social media about causing harm to a specific person or group, it can be used as direct evidence of their intent.
In this case, the police scoured Alvarez’s social media activity but didn’t find anything that supported intent.
Indirect evidence is circumstantial evidence that suggests the defendant’s intent in the matter. Because indirect evidence requires the jury to infer the defendant’s intent, more is generally needed to secure a conviction. Circumstantial evidence is like puzzle pieces. The more pieces that are available, the more reasonable it becomes to infer what the puzzle depicts.
Seek the Legal Guidance of an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today
At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, we are committed to helping clients like you obtain favorable case resolutions that support their best futures. Brett Pritchard is an imposing criminal defense attorney whose focus on his clients’ rights and best interests never wavers. To learn more, contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.