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How Murder Charges Can Result from a DWI Accident

Take this scenario: Craig is heading home after a night out drinking. Although he's inebriated, he gets behind the wheel. While making a right turn at a high rate of speed, he hits another vehicle. The other driver is ejected from the car and dies. After law enforcement officials investigate the accident, the prosecutor charges Craig with murder.

Some people might wonder how Craig could be accused of murder if such an offense occurs when someone intentionally causes another person's death. Craig, although intoxicated, did not mean to kill the driver of the other vehicle; it was an accident. And while it's true that one provision of Texas's murder law provides that a person commits the crime when they take someone's life knowingly, it also contains a section concerning felony murders.

If a person is charged with felony murder, the State does not have to prove that the defendant intended to kill another. Instead, it must show only that they were committing or attempting to commit a felony, and during that crime, they engage in dangerous conduct that results in another's death.

Thus, although Craig did not knowingly kill the driver of the other vehicle, his dangerous behavior – driving while intoxicated – is enough to justify a murder charge.

Isn't a Texas DWI a Misdemeanor?

Reading the statute on murder, you may notice it says that a person may be charged if they cause another's death while committing a felony. But a DWI isn't a felony, is it? That depends.

The first two times a person is caught drinking and driving, they'll be charged with a misdemeanor (a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class A misdemeanor for a second offense). Returning to the example that opened this blog, if Craig had never been charged with a DWI before or had only one prior alcohol-related conviction (depending on the offense), causing the other driver's death may result in an intoxication manslaughter charge. The crime is a second-degree felony punishable by between 2 and 20 years in prison.

However, in the following situations, a DWI is a felony:

  • A third DWI;
  • A DWI after a conviction for intoxication manslaughter; or
  • A DWI with a child in the car

Thus, if any of the situations applied to Craig's case, his DWI charge is considered a felony. The death of another resulting from a felony is, under Texas law, murder. Murder is a first-degree felony offense, and a conviction may result in anywhere from 5 years' to life imprisonment.

If you've been accused of this offense, you need an attorney on your side dedicated to fighting for you.

At Hamilton Grant PC, our Dallas attorneys have over 25 years of combined experience and can develop a strategic defense on your behalf. Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (214) 225-7117 or contacting us online today.