What is vehicular homicide?
Vehicular homicide happens when an individual recklessly causes the death of another person through the use of an automobile or other type of motor vehicle. While many people frequently think of vehicular manslaughter within the context of a DUI offense, the charge actually applies more broadly. In order to convict someone of vehicular homicide it has to be proven that they were driving in a reckless manner.
Below are some examples of conduct that can amount to vehicular homicide, and common defenses. As always, it is critical to contact an attorney if you or someone you know has been arrested for vehicular homicide.
Reckless Conduct Can Cause Vehicular Homicide
First, let’s understand what “reckless conduct” means: Reckless conduct is when someone is aware of a risk, but disregards the risk to others. The most recent usage has been in the area of texting while driving. Below are some examples of reckless conduct that can lead to vehicular homicide:
- Drunk Driving
- Texting while Driving
- Road Rage
- Street Racing
Common Defenses for Vehicular Homicide:
Causation: The death of an individual is not enough to convict someone of vehicular manslaughter. The state must also show a connection between the death and the conduct of the defendant. For example, lack of causation would be a defense if a defendant can show that it was actually the conduct of the victim that caused the death. Or, a defendant may argue that an independent intervening event outside of the defendant’s control is the cause of the death instead of the defendant’s intoxication.
Evidence: A defense attorney may argue that some evidence should be excluded because it was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, or because law enforcement did not comply with procedures established for collecting the evidence.
Criminal Consequences: The criminal consequences for vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter are similar to those of any other felony. Sentencing options range from deferred or suspended sentences to actually serving time in prison. Because the nature of this charge punishes reckless, not intentional, acts, the range of punishment tends to be lower than if it were an intentional homicide. Some examples of penalties for vehicular homicide include:
- Imprisonment: Sentences can still be significant, ranging anywhere from two years on the low end up to twenty years on the high end, in some states.
- Probation: If a defendant is placed on probation, a judge can order the defendant to comply with specialized conditions related to the offense.
- Electronics: A judge can also restrict the defendant from possessing devices with text capabilities.
- Restitution: If the family of the deceased incurred medical expenses, a defendant can be ordered to pay restitution to the family for their actual expenses.
Long-Term Impacts of a Conviction
Civil Suit: A criminal plea only resolves the criminal case, and therefore it does not make the civil case go away. Once a defendant enters a plea of guilty in a criminal case, that plea can be used against a defendant in a subsequent civil suit.
Criminal Record: If you are convicted of vehicular homicide, the conviction will appear on a criminal record during background checks that may be performed by employers or licensing boards. A criminal conviction may cause significant problems in the future, such as difficulty finding employment or gaining entry into universities and colleges. A criminal conviction could prevent an individual from practicing in certain professions such as teaching, government work, the medical field, and other employment areas and industries.
Contact Brian Zeiger
An experienced attorney can help you determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.
If you or someone you know has been charged with vehicular homicide, it is critical to have an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf. Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your rights. Contact The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 for a consultation, and let us help you.