What is the liability of this (hypothetical) drunk driver?

Two best friends (we’ll call them D for driver and P for Passenger) stumble out of a bar one night. Both D and P know they are BOTH drunk. Despite that, they decide to drive themselves home anyway. (They are both riding in the same car.)
In their drunken stupor, D manages to crash the car killing his friend P. D gets taken to court and is found guilty of intoxication manslaughter.

What should the punishment be for D?

Poll to follow.

I think I never realized what a fan of jail I’m not. I want minimal jail time for him because I’m not sure time in the hoosgow will make him a better or smarter person, or will remove a likely dangerous element from society. I’m all for giving him some stinkeye and keeping him on a short leash (probation) for a long time just in case this was just his first step in a life of lawlessness. But otherwise jail is just punishment, which I think is stupid.

Drunk driving is the kind of crime where the threat of imprisonment is likely to have a deterrent value. I can remember back when the legal system had a casual attitude to drunk driving and people responded by having the same attitude. Nowadays people generally avoid situations where they’d be driving drunk because they know the laws are enforced and the punishments are severe.

Go back to a time when drunk driving is “punished” by stinkeye and probation and you’ll see drunk driving incidents go back up.

True. But as the law currently stands, had D just wrecked his car and nobody was killed, he would have at most, just got 2 years probation. (Assuming this was his first offense.)

P knew D was drunk, yet he chose to get in that car anyway. His death, at least in part, was his own. And I think that should somehow play a part in the punitive process.

This is a tough one. I have known a few people that have ended up killing a friend in either that same same situation or a similar one. The real punishment isn’t the jail or probation, it is living with themselves for the rest of their life after that. I do think they need some jail for it and certainly a lengthy probation to monitor their behavior afterwards for everyone’s safety but I don’t think locking them up for a long time really helps anyone in this case.

We seem to have very inconsistent in legal views when it comes to alcohol. Sometimes people are treated like they have could not possibly have any control over their behavior when under the influence especially when they are perceived to be the victim of something while other times, it isn’t considered to be a mitigating factor in judgement no matter what. Cases like this are even more complicated because the supposed victim was engaging in the same behavior as the driver and supposedly complicit in the decisions that were made.

It depends. What do you consider mnimal or maximal jail time? Does D have any prior DUIs or serious driving violations? What is the bartender’s sentence?

D is just as guilty in my mind as someone you commits a depraved indifference homicide and should be punished accordingly. That would be second degree murder in many locales. Sentencing starting at 25 years imprisonment would be a reasonable start with eligibility for parole after 2/3 of sentence is served.

IMO, that could maybe mitigate civil damages if P’s family tried to sue D for wrongful death, but should not have any bearing on criminal charges. Kill someone driving drunk? Throw the book at the bum.

Vehicular manslaughter w/jail time but P’s family should not be able to sue.

I’m not sure, but each state has its own maximum and minimum for intoxication manslaughter. The actual number isn’t important, but rather, on a philosophical principle, do you think D should get the max or min the state allows for said crime?

Let’s just assume D does not. As far as the culpability of the server, I’d like to leave that up for another debate entirely.

As someone who has lost more than one family member to drunk driving, and witnessed a fatal drunk driving wreck herself (deposed as a witness), regular old American jail time is not sufficient for what I would like to see happen to any drunk driver involved in a fatality. A parachute drop over North Korea might be a start.

How do you know what P knew? He’s not around to tell you. A great many D’s have said “I’m totally fine to drive” and a great many P’s have said “Okay” and hopped in the passenger seat having no idea how drunk D was. Had they known maybe they would have found another driver or taken a taxi or swapped drivers (and had better luck) or said “It’s nice out, let’s just sit out here and smoke a couple of cigarettes and let this buzz wear off for a half hour and try again”. Knocking that BAC from . to .1 while still ‘too drunk to drive’ may have been all it would have taken to get them home in one piece.

One can argue that the bartender saw them talking on the way out and it was pretty clear that they both were aware of how drunk they were, but a lawyer can argue that a drunk P can’t make decisions. Though, how that plays into this, I really don’t know.

If I get in a car with a friend that I’ve been drinking with, it seems unreasonable that my friend should be held criminally responsible for my death. I knew he was drunk, yet let him drive me anyway.

D’s punishment should be the same as if it were a DUI with no fatality.

Couldn’t it be argued that you didn’t know how drunk he was? You weren’t near him in the bar (off doing your own things)? He NEVER drinks to excess and always stops drinking well before it’s time to leave, but this time he didn’t and you were far to sloshed to notice? He’s a lightweight drinker and didn’t realize that the three shots he took as he too as he was walking out the door weren’t going to hit him for 10 minutes?

What you’re saying seems like almost the definition of blaming the victim.

It seems like if that worked, it would be a great way to kill someone and get away with it. Wife/GF you want to get rid of? Business partner you need to off? Get them shitfaced, get yourself just over the legal limit and get into car wreck. Problem solved!

Yes, it cold be argued and I’m sure it would be in a court of law. But, this is a hypothetical, so we have the advantage of knowing all the facts beyond a reasonable doubt. So we can say, with out a reasonable doubt, that P knew D was drunk.

I don’t know, I just can’t see D getting off with whatever ticket he’d get for wrapping his car around a telephone pole or sinking it into a river and finding a loophole for killing his best friend.

If D and P decide to get drunk and go skeet shooting and one of them takes a bullet in the face, the judge isn’t going to say “Well, D was drunk, your son really should have known better…Innocent”. I thought that was sort of the whole point of the manslaughter charge. You killed someone, but not on purpose.

Let me ask you this. If you hop in my car and I say “Oh, by the way, my brakes don’t work so well HA HA, every ride is a bit of an adventure” and we get into an accident and you lose you’re legs. Can I say “Well, you had full knowledge that my car didn’t work, so that’s on you”?

This actually happened to a girl I know. She ended up getting a few years (with the likely opportunity to be out in 1 year) but originally she was facing a lot more time, like 8-12. Took forever to get through the courts and until the very end it was looking extremely unlikely that they would settle for anything less. But anyway I think that would have been way too long and wouldn’t have served any purpose. Even the friend’s family didn’t want her to be punished harshly.

I guess I think minimum prison time is about right. I’ve wondered about this often because it happens nonstop. People including me ride with friends knowing they’re over the legal limit all the time.

A DWI, even if it’s a first offense, is going to be way more than just a ticket. You’re likely to get at least two years probation. At least here in Texas.

In this case too, I think both should bare culpability.

I think this comes down to a case of personal responsibility. Let’s take this scenario a bit further. What if we’re teenagers and I tell you to ride on the handlebars of my bicycle while I pedal you home. If on the way, you fall off and get hurt, is that all on me?

I should mention that have no idea what the punishment should be in this case, I just think that if you kill your passenger it should be more then if there’s no passenger. On the one hand I understand the reasoning behind the punishment being the same. A car accident is a car accident. OTOH, perhaps when you bring extra people into the car, you should accept that you’re taking on more responsibility and if bring more people into the car AND your drunk AND you crash the car AND you kill them, then you should see more punishment then if you just wreck your car.

Is this question stemming from the Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter conviction today?