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Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent Intoxication Manslaughter Trial Date Set for September 2013 as DWI Manslaughter Plea Bargain Remains a Possibility

Whether or not a deal will be negotiated remains to be seen, but right now Dallas Cowboys’ Josh Brent is scheduled for a September 23, 2013, criminal trial on charges of intoxication manslaughter.

The Dallas Cowboys have confirmed that with these pending criminal proceedings, defensive tackle Josh Brent will not be playing pro football this season.

What Happened to Josh Brent?

Last December 8, Josh Brent was driving his four-door Mercedes S600 west on the service road of State Highway 114 near Loop 12 in Irving, Texas, with his fellow Cowboy and best pal Jerry Brown, Jr. as his front seat passenger.  It was a few minutes after two o’clock in the morning.  They were going over the 45 MPH speed limit.  Neither man was wearing a seat belt.

Tragically, the vehicle crashed as the car hit the curb, flipped, crashed, and caught fire. While Brent survived, his friend Jerry Brown died from blunt force trauma injuries sustained in the accident at Parkland Hospital a short while after the accident happened.

Irving Police reported that Brent’s blood alcohol level was 0.18 percent and arrested him. (Under Texas law, you are technically driving drunk if your BAC is at or above 0.08.)   Josh Brent was also reported by police to have failed field sobriety tests at the time.

(Apparently, Josh Brent had some criminal defense savvy, because he refused a Breathalyzer test; however, Texas law allowed his blood to be taken from him regardless of his refusal because the situation involved accident with a fatality.)

The official Irving Police Report states that Brent “was intoxicated, speeding over the limit, failed to drive in a single lane and struck the north (right) curb, causing the operator to lose control” of the car.

What is Intoxication Manslaughter?

Intoxication manslaughter is a felony charge under state law that is defined in the Texas Penal Code as follows (Texas Penal Code Sec. 49.08). It is a criminal charge that can apply in situations where someone is arrested for driving while intoxicated and another person dies in the crash although the driver had no intent or desire for this person to be harmed.

    INTOXICATION MANSLAUGHTER.
    (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
    (1)  operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and

    (2)  is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.

    (b)  Except as provided by Section 49.09, an offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.

In Texas, a second degree felony conviction means significant incarceration and jail time.  Here, from the statute itself (Texas Penal Code 12.33):

    Sec. 12.33.  SECOND DEGREE FELONY PUNISHMENT.
    (a) An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for any term of not more than 20 years or less than 2 years.

    (b)  In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the second degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Will Dallas Cowboys Lineman Josh Brent Return to Play Football?

Right now, Josh Brent is not in jail: he posted a $100,000 bond and he’s free right now, although he is required to wear an electronic ankle monitor at all times.  The monitor, a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor (SCRAM) is court-ordered, and transmits body sweat readings to a computer in order to track alcohol intake.

The Dallas Cowboys have not terminated Brent, but it doesn’t look like Brent will be playing defense for Dallas in the 2013 NFL Season.  For one thing, if this case does go to a full trial, the September 2013 trial date hits after the start of the 2013 football season.  Brent can’t be two places at once.

The Dallas Cowboys have posted on their blog that the Front Office and the coaching staff are in limbo right now, waiting to learn not only what happens in the criminal case (i.e., will there be a successful plea bargain) but also to find out what the National Football League decides on Brent’s status.  Right now, according to the Cowboys web site, Josh Brent is officially on the “reserve non-football injury” list.

The Cowboys are not abandoning Josh Brent: Coach Jason Garrett has stated publicly that both the team’s players and their coaches are supporting Josh Brent through this thing “without condoning his actions.

Will There Be a Plea Bargain?

Criminal defense attorneys recognize that making deals for their clients is a big part of their job, and it’s something that prosecutors do all the time: bargain on punishment, bargain on jail time and fines and charges to be faced.  Given that there are five months ahead of Josh Brent before any jury will be convened, there is a lot of opportunity for his defense team to negotiate something with the district attorney.

What will that be?  Who’s to say, but a plea bargain remains a real possibility for Josh Brent.

For example, check out the Case Results page on our web site, which includes a Dallas County Felony DWI case reduced from 3rd Degree Felony to Misdemeanor Charge in an August 2010 plea deal.


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