Vehicular assault is a crime in which the driver of a car causes bodily injury to another person, the victim. The victim may also include an unborn child, depending on the state law.

What are the Elements of Vehicular Assault?

This will depend on which state’s laws apply to your case. Some states do not have specific vehicular assault laws, and those that do may vary in their elements. In general, though, this charge is brought when a driver causes bodily harm to a victim while:

  • Driving recklessly or negligently
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license

In terms of bodily harm, some states’ laws will specify that the harm must be serious in order for the elements of vehicular assault to be present. More significant injuries, especially those that require hospitalization, are more likely to amount to “serious” bodily harm.

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Do the States’ Vehicular Assault Laws Vary?

Some states define vehicular assault specifically as causing serious bodily harm while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Other states have broader statutes, that include negligent or reckless driving and harming someone else as amounting to assault with a vehicle.

In states where vehicular assault is a separate crime, it is likely that an offending driver will be charged with more than one crime. Thus, for example, if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating their vehicle, and hits a pedestrian with the vehicle causing injuries, that driver will likely be charged with both their state’s version of driving while intoxicated, and vehicular assault.

The victim may be a pedestrian, a passenger in another vehicle or even a passenger in the driver’s vehicle. Some states also have a require for the type of car, like in New York the vehicle must weigh more than 1800 pounds.

States that have vehicular assault laws include: Colorado, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.

In states that do not have vehicular assault laws, drivers that cause injury to a victim while operating a vehicle will be charged with the pertinent laws of their state.

Is Vehicular Assault a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

This will also vary by state. Numerous factors will be considered in determining whether the driver is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, including number of people they injured, severity of injuries, and whether the driver had criminal record.

Possible punishments for vehicular assault include prison time, which will vary in length according to whether the driver is charged with a felony or misdemeanor.

Are there any Defenses to Vehicular Assault?

Defenses to vehicular assault may include involuntary intoxication and mental illness. There is a key difference between involuntary intoxication and voluntary intoxication. The difference is similar to being poisoned (involuntary) to drinking too much (voluntary). A criminal attorney can help determine a defense to this charge.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Yes. Vehicular assault is a serious crime. It can come with serious penalties that can impact your life, permanently. If you have been charged with vehicular assault, then you should contact a criminal defense lawyer to see what is the best step forward, for you.