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No one truly intends to commit intoxication manslaughter. They do not wake up and say “I’m going to get drunk tonight and drive and see who gets in my way.”
Accidents do happen and tragically, someone can die. Mitigating factors are thoroughly checked out such as whether the person broke any traffic laws, was driving with a suspended license, or if the person was negligent in some way. These are usually tried as misdemeanors. However, if a person is found to be intoxicated or under the influence of something, it is treated in Texas as a second degree felony and the prosecution goes after the person diligently. In intoxication manslaughter cases, the prosecution only has to prove that the driver was indeed, intoxicated. The term of incarceration could be anything from two years to twenty years.
If you have been charged with DWI after being in an accident that involved a death, you may be facing very serious charges of intoxication manslaughter. It is imperative that you speak with Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible after you have been charged, or think you may be charged. Attorney Johnson has the experience you can rely on for aggressive and effective defense strategies against the charges. The skilled attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm do not believe there is any such thing as being slam-dunk guilty. No matter what the circumstances of the accident are, your personal story is behind the charges and will make a difference in the outcome of your case. We will make sure that the judge and jury know that this isn’t just about an intoxication manslaughter case. It is about you and your family.
Intoxication manslaughter is a Second Degree felony which holds people liable for any death which occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involves prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by individual U.S. states), although an independent infraction (such as driving with a suspended driver’s license), or negligence, is usually also required.
Intoxication manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and other similar offences require a lesser mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”. In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime) than other manslaughter offenses. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance, is no defense. For example, in Texas, to prove intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the person was negligent in causing the death of another, nor that they unlawfully used the substance that intoxicated them, but only that they were intoxicated, and operated a motor vehicle, and someone died as a result.
Types of Intoxication Manslaughter
In Texas, intoxication manslaughter does not only apply to automobile drivers. Individuals may be charged with this crime under any of the following circumstances:
If they are operating a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other type of motorized vehicle in a public place
If they are operating a boat, airplane, or amusement park ride
If they assemble an amusement park ride
If the alleged offender has done any of these things while intoxicated, and someone was killed by the vehicle they were operating or had assembled, they can be convicted of intoxication manslaughter. There is no requirement that the prosecutor prove negligence, that their intoxication was the direct cause of the crash, or that they were behaving unlawfully by using the substance that caused their intoxication.
Defenses For Intoxication Manslaughter
Intoxication manslaughter cases should be attacked on two fronts if the case is going to trial. Notwithstanding whether a person is or is not intoxicated, a good lawyer would examine the Texas Peace Officer collision report which was completed as part of the investigation. Just because a driver may be intoxicated does not mean that he should be held criminally liable for the death of another.
There have been cases where the deceased driver was as much at fault if not more at fault than the accused. Examples could include the deceased having run a red light, the deceased having operated his motor vehicle at night without lights, the deceased also being intoxicated, the deceased merging improperly into traffic, and the list goes on. A lawyer familiar with crash reconstruction and who has worked with reconstruction experts should be able to present this defense if it is available. The issue is one of causation and is set forth in Tex. Penal Code Section 6.04. In a nutshell, what 6.04 states is that if an accused’s conduct is insufficient in itself to cause the result, and the conduct of another contributed to the result and the contributing cause was sufficient to cause the result, the accused cannot be held liable.
A good accident reconstruction expert’s report may convince a prosecutor to agree to probation if causation is questionable. That in itself may be worth the investment in hiring both a reconstruction expert and a lawyer who knows how to present such findings.
The second line of defense is whether a person is intoxicated. Scientific evidence can be compelling for a jury. However, the State is allowed to rely upon opinion evidence based upon observations such as lack of coordination, blood shot eyes, smell of intoxicants on breath, slurred speech etc. Some of these symptom could be explained by lack of sleep, allergies, injury, but not all.
Most police departments have on board video cameras and video may very well have been used in this case. Video can be a two-edge sword. Many a video has convinced a defendant to make the best deal possible, while other videos have convinced an accused to take it to trial
In blood draws/test results, there are several considerations. A blood sample can be lost, yet there can be a medical record from a laboratory stating what the test result is. In fact, most hospitals don’t retain the blood samples, but for a very short period. If the blood draw was for medical treatment, sometimes there is a chain of custody problem that makes admission of the medical records unreliable. Most courts, when dealing with a chain of custody issue on medical records as the result of medical treatment rule that any problems goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility, that is, the records gets admitted but the defense lawyer gets to argue that it is not reliable because of the poor chain of custody.
Mandatory blood draws can be attacked, however, you should hire a lawyer familiar with the statutory and administrative requirements for blood draws.
Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
When you are charged with intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault, you have more than just the prosecutor against you. You have the victim’s family and the public screaming for your head. You don’t have to go through this alone. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your future.
After a car accident in which there has been a fatality, it is an extremely upsetting situation for everyone involved. Law enforcement will collect evidence at the scene and this evidence is an important part of the documentation of the case. It is crucial that if you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter that you contact The Charles Johnson Law Firm quickly. The evidence in the case can be reviewed and an attorney can advise you what can be done in your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can offer a free evaluation of your case, and it is advised that you take advantage of this so it can be determined what can be done and what options may be possible in your case.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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News Stories Related to Intoxication Manslaughter Arrest in Houston:
Download “Arrested for Intoxication Manslaughter? Avoid Conviction by Hiring the Best Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Attorney” in PDF format
4 killed in SW Houston accident, driver arrested
HOUSTON, TX – Celebration ends in tragedy. It all happened Sunday night at Beechnut and Synott ... Cops arrested the driver of the van, Million Zeghergis, after he failed a sobriety test. He’s been charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter.
NewsFix - Jun 23 2014
Charles Johnson |
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Virtually all drug charge convictions bear severe consequences, but the state of Texas makes every effort to crack down on drug manufacture cases. From meth laboratories to marijuana grow houses, in the event you or a loved one faces criminal charges surrounding the cultivation of drugs; you need to speak to the Finest Houston Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm prior to taking any sort of legal action on your own.
The Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will have many years of experience protecting the accused within the courts throughout Texas and is going to be willing to respond to your questions and reduce the damages facing you following your drug manufacture arrest.
When you initially step into their office, the Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will talk about your case, talk about what happened, and how the criminal charges you face might be affected by a prior criminal record. Listening to your side of the story, they’ll help you explore any and all potential defenses.
Understanding your side of the story is important. They will tell you about the court in which your charges are being heard. In all instances, they will want to hear your side of the story before beginning to fully evaluate your choices.
Hire The Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm
Texas defense attorneys see many drug distribution cases due to the sheer volume of interstate highway traffic. Sadly, it’s all-too-easy to move drugs along the interstate highway system in all directions. In particular within the Houston area, our law enforcement officers have noticed patterns when searching for drug traffickers. It is common for vehicles to be stopped along northbound interstates and for big amounts of drugs to be found. When suspect automobiles are stopped heading southbound, big amounts of currency are occasionally found. Whether the criminal arrest will be sale, distribution, or drug trafficking depends upon the kind and also the amount of drugs in question. However the difference you face in penalties is substantial.
A first degree felony drug conviction usually results in a minimum five-year prison term, but in large-scale drug manufacturing or drug distribution cases, jail terms can jump to a minimum of 15 years.
If excessively big sums of U.S. currency are found inside your vehicle (or perhaps a vehicle you are riding in), you may face charges of money laundering. Amazingly, the penalties at the federal level for possessing big amounts of money are similarly severe to those for possessing big amounts of drugs.
You might also discover yourself dealing with conspiracy charges, something federal prosecutors might add on to drug crime cases.
The Recommended Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson will have handled numerous state and federal drug cases in Texas courts, from drug manufacturing cases involving meth laboratories and marijuana grow houses to international drug trafficking. No case is too big or complicated for their firm to handle.
Seizure of Assets
Law enforcement officers doing drug interdiction work have the legal right to seize assets that had been utilized in furtherance of a criminal offense or purchased using the proceeds of criminal activity. This indicates they not only confiscate drugs; they also seize money, cars, boats, various other personal property and even real estate. The police or law enforcement agency is able to then sell the assets and keep the proceeds or just keep the property altogether for their own purposes. This is especially typical with vehicles.
Asset forfeiture sometimes goes too far, with the police taking property that doesn’t belong to anybody charged with the criminal offense, property and assets that in fact belongs to totally innocent family members or third parties. The Most Dedicated Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm handles asset forfeiture cases, helping customers fight to recover seized assets .
Creating Your Drug Manufacture Defense
Most drug manufacturing criminal charges, whether they involve marijuana or methamphetamines, are heard in state court. Quite often, marijuana grow houses and meth houses are discovered following informants report activities to the authorities.
If you have been turned in by a third party, the Best Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will attack the reliability of the source. Nevertheless, in every case the quality of the evidence is different. That is why we analyze possible actions on a case-by-case basis.
Contact the Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson for a free consultation. They’ll fight hard to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
Charles Johnson |
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Although individuals within the United States are entitled to privacy and freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. State or federal law enforcement officers are permitted, where justified, to search your premises, car, or various other assets in order to look for and seize illegal items, stolen goods or evidence of a criminal offense. What rules must law enforcement follow when engaging in searches and seizures? What can they do in upholding the laws, and what can’t they do?
What police officers May Do:
- Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, law enforcement officials may engage in "reasonable" searches and seizures.
- To establish that a search is "reasonable," the authorities need to generally demonstrate that it is more likely than not that a crime has occurred, and that if a search is conducted it is probable that they will find either stolen goods or evidence of the criminal offense. This is often designated probable cause.
- In a few situations, police officers must first make this showing to a judge who issues a search warrant. In the majority of special circumstances, however, law enforcement may be able to conduct a search without a warrant. In fact, virtually all searches are "warrantless."
- Police may search and seize items or evidence when there isn’t any "legitimate expectation of privacy." In various other words, in the event you did not have a privacy interest in the items or evidence, the authorities can take them and, in effect, no "search" has transpired.
Note: In deciding whether or not there was a "legitimate expectation of privacy," a court will take into consideration two matters:
- Did you have an expectation of some degree of privacy?
- Was that expectation reasonable in our society’s view?
Example: You have a semi-automatic rifle that you had stolen from a pawn shop. You leave the rifle laying on the hood of your vehicle when you get home. You do not have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" with regard to items you leave on the hood of your automobile, and the authorities may take the weapon. No search has happened.
- Police may use first-hand info, or tips from an informant to justify the need to search your property. If an informant’s info is utilized, police officers need to establish that the information is reliable under the circumstances.
- Once a warrant is obtained, police officers may enter onto the specified area of the property and search for the items listed on the warrant.
- Police could very well extend the search beyond the specified area of the property or include some other items in the search beyond those specified or listed in the warrant if it is required to:
- Ensure their safety or the safety of others;
- Prevent the destruction of evidence;
- Discover more about possible evidence or stolen items that are in plain view; or
- Hunt for evidence or stolen items which, primarily based upon their preliminary search of the specified area, they believe may be in a different location on the property.
Example: Law enforcement have a warrant to search your basement for evidence of a drug manufacturing operation. On their way through your property to go down to the basement, they see a cache of weapons sitting on your kitchen table. Some may take the guns to guarantee their safety while searching your basement.
- Police may search your property without the need of a warrant in the event you consent to the search. Consent needs to be freely and voluntarily given, and you can never be coerced or tricked into giving it.
- Police may search your person and the immediate surroundings without any a warrant when they are placing you under criminal arrest.
- If a person is arrested in a residence, police may make a "protective sweep" of the residence in order to make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice may be hiding. In order to accomplish this, the police must have a reasonable belief that an accomplice may be around.
Example: Law enforcement arrest you in your living room on criminal charges of murder. They can open the door of your coat closet to make certain that no one else is hiding there, but may not open your medicine cabinet because an accomplice couldn’t hide there.
- When you are being taken to jail, police may perform an "inventory search" of items you have with you without the need of a warrant. This search may include your vehicle if it is being held by the authorities in order to make a list of all items inside.
- Police may search without the need of a warrant if they reasonably fear for their safety or for the public’s safety.
Example: If the authorities drive past your home on a regular patrol of the neighborhood and see you, in your open garage, with ten cases of dynamite and a blowtorch, they can search your garage without a warrant.
- If it’s required to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, police officers may search without any a warrant.
Example: If the authorities see you trying to burn a stack of cash that you stole from a bank, they can perform a search without a warrant to stop you from further destroying the money.
- Perform a search, without the need of a warrant, when they are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who enters a private dwelling or area following fleeing the scene of a crime.
Example: If law enforcement are chasing you from the scene of a murder, and you run into your apartment in an effort to get away from them, they could follow you into the apartment and search the area without the need of a warrant.
- Police may perform a pat-down of your outer clothing, in what is designated a "stop and frisk" situation, as long as they reasonably believe that you may be concealing a firearm and they fear for their safety.
Houston Search & Seizure Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer
What police officers May NOT Do:
- The law enforcement officials may not perform a warrantless search anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, unless one of the warrant exceptions applies.
- If evidence was attained via an unreasonable or illegal search, the police may not use it against you in a trial. This is designated the "exclusionary rule."
- The law enforcement officials may not use evidence resulting from an illegal search to obtain some other evidence.
- The police may not submit an affidavit in support of obtaining a search warrant if they didn’t have a reasonable belief in the truth of the statements in the affidavit.
- Unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence, unlawful items, or stolen goods, law enforcement may not search your vehicle. If your vehicle has been seized by the police, however, they can search it.
- Unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a criminal activity, the police may not "stop and frisk" you. Should they have a reasonable suspicion, they may pat down your outer clothing if they have concerns that you might be concealing a weapon.
Courts often need to determine case-by-case whether or not the circumstances in which law enforcement searched without a warrant had been legal. Thus, any time a search has already occurred and you aren’t sure of its legality, speak to the Top Houston Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. And if the search has not yet been conducted, make sure that you understand your rights in advance.
Charles Johnson |
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Hire the Leading Houston Attorney!
Being charged with a crime in Houston is a extremely scary moment in your life. The federal government has the power to take away your liberty for the rest of your life. A quite complex process starts to operate the minute that you are arrested by the police. It truly is frightening and bewildering.
In this article we will give you a good idea of the criminal process and what you might expect should you are ever charged with a crime. Nevertheless, these are generalities only. The real answer is determined by the form of criminal offense you were charged with, the circumstances surrounding it, the county you are in, etc. Only those who understand the criminal law process, and realize how to make it work, will be able to genuinely tell you what to anticipate in your particular case. This is certainly an area of the law you do not ever want to handle all by yourself.
Experienced Houston Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
The Charles Johnson Law Firm will always provide a free of charge consultation to anyone charged with a criminal offense. You should take advantage of that free consultation asap. Having a criminal defense attorney is extremely important to successfully getting through the criminal process. Receive a complimentary initial consultation by calling Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson now, 24 / 7, 365 days a year.
The following are the steps you might expect to happen, and what each step in the process means to you:
Stop and Arrest
The whole process starts with a stop or a charge by the authorities. A stop isn’t as formal as an arrest. A police officer will stop you to make inquiries. They cannot stop you unless they have a reasonable belief that you violated what the law states. What is a valid “reasonable suspicion”? There are a million court cases answering that question and Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson will be capable of giving you many examples during your no charge consultation.
Nevertheless, understand that you always have the right to remain silent, even if you are merely stopped and questioned. You do not have to answer questions from law enforcement at any time. The truth is, everyone ought to know their constitutional rights relating to criminal law.
If you are in a vehicle, the law enforcement officer may very well ask to search it. The authorities cannot search your automobile unless they have “probable cause”, or you consent. Some might seek your consent mainly because they do not quite have “probable cause.” You do not have to provide your consent to a search of your automobile. Some may search your automobile later, nevertheless your attorney will be able to then challenge the probable cause law enforcement asserted as being a reason to search the automobile. Should you give your consent, the authorities do not need any other reason to search your vehicle, and your attorney will have considerably less to challenge in the courtroom.
“Probable cause” is more serious than “reasonable suspicion”, however there are a million court cases explaining it too and a Houston Lawyer will explain those during your consultation. You cannot challenge a law enforcement officer’s assertion of probable cause until later, in the courtroom. Once again, let your lawyer handle that question later.
Typically, a police officer is able to charge you should they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime, or if there is a warrant out for your arrest. If a stop and search lead to an arrest, you must in no way resist it. If it isn’t really valid, you may wish to do so, however you cannot legally challenge it until later. Resisting arrest is a crime itself. The optimal advice if you are arrested is to be calm, be silent, and demand a lawyer before they ask you any type of questions.
After being arrested, the police officer will “book” you. This is the process where they take your fingerprints, get your mug shot, do a background check, and ask you questions. Remember, you have the right to remain silent and the right to demand an attorney. You do not need to respond to questions. They aren’t going to let you out of jail even should you respond to all their questions. Just always be calm, always be silent, and let Attorney Johnson deal with things later. That’s the best you can do.
The charge originates from the prosecutor, not police officers. The victim does not get to charge you, and contrary to popular belief, they don’t get to drop the criminal charges either. The prosecutor will often take into account the wishes of the victim, nevertheless they do not have to. You are within the hands of the state subsequent to being arrested. They cannot hold you indefinitely, however. You must be arrested for a criminal offense within a certain limited amount of time or they have got to release you.
This is where the Judge or Magistrate will formally read your criminal charges and let you know your rights. You should have asserted your priviledge to an attorney before now. If not, do so now. If you are asked how to plea, and you do not have a Houston criminal defense lawyer, you must say “not guilty.”
The Magistrate will determine whether or not you ought to be released, and if so, how much your bail will be. Bail is the amount of cash you, or another person else, must post with the court so they can be sure you will reappear. In the event you do not, your bond is going to be forfeited, and the county retains it.
If bail is set, another person has to post it for you or hire a bail bondsman to do so. If you hire a bail bondsman, and you run off, the bondsman loses the bail money to the court. In the event that happens, they send another person after you – a bounty hunter. Furthermore, there will be a warrant out for your arrest. In some cases you might be released on your own “recognizance”, which just means there is absolutely no bail. Nevertheless you are now in the system and will have to appear for additional proceedings.
Discovery is a pre-trial process where the prosecutor needs to give certain information and facts to your criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Charles Johnson will be permitted to see all of the evidence against you before trial. There aren’t any secret, last minute witnesses permitted.
This is the top reason to remain silent, not give your consent to a search, and demand an attorney in the event you are arrested. Your lawyer might prepare any number of pre-trial motions. They frequently ask the Court to exclude certain evidence from trial if it was gained in an illegal or impermissible fashion. It is difficult to suppress evidence if you spoke voluntarily or gave consent to a search.
This is known as a fancy word for negotiations. If the two sides reach an agreement, you will usually be required to plead guilty to one or more of the charges to obtain the deal which has been reached. This involves going to court, answering several questions from the Judge, and indicating to the court on the record that you are guilty to the charge agreed upon by your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor.
If the prosecutor and your lawyer are unable to reach an agreement on a plea bargain, you will normally go to trial. Trial is where the government needs to put on evidence that you committed a transgression, in most cases including producing witnesses live in court to testify. You do not have to testify. You do not need to put on any type of evidence whatsoever. The government has to demonstrate its case, and it needs to demonstrate it beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are found guilty, or if you enter a plea of guilty based on a plea bargain, you will undoubtedly be sentenced by the Court. The Judge will make a decision on the suitable punishment. This might end up being anything from probation to active prison time. There are guidelines that apply and allow the Judge a general range of punishment choices.
Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson can do a lot for you personally at sentencing, including making sure that all the procedures are followed, arguing for lesser guidelines, and arguing circumstances which would allow the Judge to sentence you to lower than that called for in the guidelines. Also, Attorney Johnson will help you before sentencing by informing you what measures you might take to make the Judge more likely to be lenient on you. For instance, if you are charged with drunk driving, and take a class or go to rehab, the Judge may take that into consideration when sentencing you.
Aggressive Houston Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
I have tried to provide you with a good overview of the criminal process, with a few tips on how best to deal with important things at each stage. But I should repeat my first and most important advice here: call Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson whenever a criminal charge is made against you. It is no joke, and you could lose your protection under the law, your money, and your independence.
Remember, we offer a no cost consultation for any individual charged with a criminal offense. You should take advantage of that no charge time to better understand the exact nature of your situation, and what is likely to take place at trial or sentencing.
Charles Johnson |
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