LPD: Charges possible in TTU student alcohol poisoning death
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Lubbock police say charges could be possible in the alcohol poisoning death of an 18-year-old Texas Tech student.
The Lubbock County Medical Examiner's Office says Dalton Debrick died as a result of acute alcohol intoxication.
His death has been ruled as an accident but police say they are looking for who provided the alcohol.
Debrick's body was found on Aug. 24 at a home in the 3600 block of 36th Street.
Police had initially responded to a loud party call at the home around 12:05 a.m.
They returned to the home just before 9 a.m. after receiving a report of a dead body.
Police say they believe Debrick died sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
"He was obviously under 21 so we have a criminal statute in Texas which is basically purchasing or furnishing alcohol to a minor and that's a class A misdemeanor. If the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone who was above the age of 21 purchased the alcohol, gave it to him, or provided it to him then they could be charged with that crime," said Stephen Hamilton, a board-certified criminal defense attorney in Lubbock.
"That probably, honestly in a case like this, is the easiest charge and probably the only charge that realistically could be made. They would have to show that somebody actually bought the alcohol for him or provided it to him," he said.
Hamilton says, a class A misdemeanor includes a fine of up to a $4,000 and/or up to a year in jail, and while he thinks that is the most likely charge, he says the State could consider more serious charges.
"When you look at it, you might be able to get, under the right circumstances, to a criminally negligent homicide. That's what we call a state jail felony in Texas so that means the punishment ranges from 6 months in state jail up to 2 years but it's a harder standard to get to," he said. "Criminally negligent homicide requires not only a failure to perceive a risk of death, but also some serious blameworthiness in the conduct that caused it. The risk included must have been substantial and unjustifiable and the failure to perceive that risk must have been a gross deviation from reasonable care."
He doesn't believe the owner of the home will face any criminal charges; unless it can be proved that there is a history of underage parties that they knew about.
"I think it's very unlikely that the state could ever prove a case of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter against a home owner, absent those things where you could really show that they knew exactly what was going on, that they were a part of that action, just owning the house is not going to be enough, maybe just being there is not going to be enough, but they would have to be actually involved in this issue."
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