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Drinking and driving is always dangerous, and is rarely legally advisable. Still, many individuals who make the poor choice to drink and drive make it home safely without incident and without harming themselves or others. Unfortunately, some drunk driving results in tragedy, most harshly when someone other than the driver loses his or her life. In these instances, it is important for the driver to understand the legal options he or she may have available.

When a drunk driver kills another person, intoxication may play an important role in building the driver's defense. While the other person's loss of life is tragic, it is not fair to charge a drunk driver the same way that law enforcement would charge a killer who takes someone else's life maliciously. This rests on the differences between murder and manslaughter.

Manslaughter charges arose in part out of the need to have a category of charges for those whose actions resulted in the loss of another person's life even though the defendant did not intend to kill anyone. In some instances, building a legal defense that leans on this difference may help reduce charges from murder down to manslaughter. Similarly, if the defendant has reason to believe he or she was unwillingly intoxicated, this may provide further grounds for legal defense.

If you or someone you love faces serious charges related to drinking and driving, it is important to understand your rights and opportunities to build a legal defense. It is crucial to build the strongest legal defense you can to ensure that your rights do not suffer because of the nature of the offense, and to keep you from unfairly receiving necessarily harsh sentencing.

Source: FindLaw, "Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses," accessed Feb. 16, 2018

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