In general, homicide is defined as the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another individual. It includes both intentional killings, such as first-degree murder, and unintentional killing, like voluntary manslaughter.
Vehicular homicide is a type of homicide crime that results in the death of another. However, it involves the use of a motor vehicle for a weapon, as opposed to a gun or knife.
Depending on the laws of the state and facts surrounding the case, a defendant charged with vehicular homicide can be tried in a court of law for murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide.
Can I Be Charged with Vehicular Homicide if I Was Too Drunk to Know What I Was Doing?
There may be several defenses available to a defendant who is charged with vehicular homicide. One of those defenses is impairment due to alcohol or other drugs.
In other words, if the defendant had not been under the influence of illegal substances while driving their vehicle, then it may not have led to the death of another human being. However, this is never a complete defense to vehicular homicide; it is only a partial defense.
It is rare that this defense ever applies though since it is often the case that the impaired driver’s actions leading up to the homicide are so reprehensible that under the law their conduct implies an intent to kill.
What is the Punishment for Vehicular Homicide?
As with any other form of criminal homicide, there are typically severe consequences for a defendant who is convicted of vehicular homicide. This includes the following punishments:
- A prison sentence (usually served out in a state prison);
- Loss of the right to possess deadly weapons (e.g., convicted felons cannot purchase or possess guns);
- A period of probation or parole;
- Loss of occupational licensing;
- Significant fines;
- Loss of the right to vote in elections; and
- A criminal history on their permanent record, which can remain on it for life.
Can I Get the Death Penalty for Vehicular Homicide?
As with most crimes, the punishment for a convicted defendant will vary depending on the laws of the state as well as the facts surrounding the case.
For instance, the states of Alaska, Arizona, and Montana do not have statutes that cover vehicular homicide. Instead, these states categorize all actions that end in the death of another person as general homicide.
The consequences of not having a specific vehicular homicide statute means that it may be easier for the state to both convict and issue harsher penalties to a defendant, like the death penalty.
Although it is rare, there are at least two states that have previously charged impaired drivers with capital murder. Those states are North Carolina and Kentucky. A conviction for capital murder can result in the death sentence.
In addition, there may be other factors that contribute to determining the level of crime committed and its associated punishment, such as whether an unborn child was killed or injured in the accident, and if the defendant was a first-time offender or had prior a criminal history.
What If a Member of My Family was the Victim of a Vehicular Homicide?
If you are a family member of a victim of vehicular homicide, then you should contact the police. If the police find that there is sufficient evidence, they will forward your case to the local District Attorney’s office.
The local district attorney assigned to your case will then review the evidence. If they find there is enough evidence to make a case, the district attorney will prosecute the person who committed the crime against your family member.
Alternatively, if you are interested in bringing a civil lawsuit against the person who is responsible for the death of your family member and in order to receive damages for their death, then you should contact an experienced DWI lawyer as soon as possible.
What Should I Do If I Am Accused of Vehicular Homicide?
Being charged with vehicular homicide, or any type of homicide for that matter, is a very serious crime. A conviction can lead to severe penalties, such as years of imprisonment, large fines, and in some states, even in the death penalty.
Therefore, if you have been accused of committing vehicular homicide, then you should contact a local criminal defense attorney immediately.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to prepare your case, represent you in court on the matter, discuss the potential penalties that you may be facing, and can determine whether any defenses apply to your case.
A lawyer can also help to protect your rights as a defendant and can try to get your sentence reduced by reviewing the laws in your area.