Today we talk about a vehicular manslaughter sentence. So, what are the typical punishments for vehicular manslaughter? How can a criminal history or driving record affect a vehicular manslaughter sentence?
Is probation or parole a possibility for someone facing vehicular manslaughter charges? Read on to find answers.
What Is The Sentence For Vehicular Manslaughter?
Now, before we talk about a vehicular manslaughter sentence, let us first find out what vehicular manslaughter means. Someone commits vehicular manslaughter when they cause the demise of occupants in other cars.
Death of pedestrians fall into this category, too.
It occurs when drivers un-intentionally lead to accidents that cause the passenger’s deaths. The charges for vehicular manslaughter are what we also call vehicular homicide.
Circumstances Leading to Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
Drivers face these charges if they are under drug influence or of alcohol, driving carelessly or with a lack of caution. It can also happen if they are violating driving laws. However, each state also specifies the situations that support such charges.
Evolution of Vehicular Manslaughter
Vehicular manslaughters are a recent addition to homicide offenses. Previously, drivers causing unintentional deaths due to criminal negligence i.e. recklessness, faced manslaughter charges. However, juries were reluctant to label traffic accidents as “manslaughter.”
Therefore, the introduction of “vehicular manslaughter” has resulted in lighter penalties compared to traditional manslaughter charges.
What Kind Of Driving Can Lead to Vehicular Manslaughter Charges?
To understand if a vehicular manslaughter applies to a deadly highway accident, it’s important to know the law. Therefore, the kinds of driving laws that are there in the state will determine this charge.
Here are some common kinds of driving that the state laws outline for such situations.
Vehicular Manslaughter Charges From Negligence
Many states consider ordinary negligence of the driver as grounds for a typical vehicular manslaughter offense. Therefore, ordinary negligence can count as inattention or even driving without the care.
It is the lack of prudence which ordinarily people who are careful would normally exercise under these circumstances.
For example, authorities can charge a driver with vehicular manslaughter if they briefly take their eyes off the road. It can be while they reach into their car’s console. So, if this leads to an accident that is fatal, it is manslaughter.
The Negligence Has To Be Criminal
In some states, the level of driving has to be criminally negligent to be a vehicular manslaughter. So, the charge needs to be more severe than basic negligence.
These states often look for instances of culpable, criminal, or gross negligence, as well as reckless disregard for others’ safety.
- If a person drives at very high speed along with high levels of blood alcohol.
- Moreover, they ignored red flashing lights and drove on the wrong sides of the road.
- Additionally, they did not use the brakes.
- Hence, this displays behavior that is more than mere carelessness or negligence.
Vehicular Manslaughter Sentence Out Of Driving Under The Influence
So, in order to get a vehicular manslaughter sentence, you need to prove that a driver is intoxicated. Thus, you need to show that they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is a common method that prosecutors use to establish negligent or reckless behavior.
Therefore, the following can support these charges.
- Eyewitness accounts.
- The driver’s self-admissions.
- And chemical evidence such as blood, breath, or urine tests.
Most states require prosecutors to show that the act of driving was careless. This means that mere proof of legal intoxication isn’t enough. However, Florida is an exception.
Here, the prosecutor only needs to establish that the driver’s intoxicated state caused a death. This is regardless of the driver’s carelessness (Fl. Stat. Section 860.01).
Vehicular Manslaughter Sentence Through Presumed Intoxication Levels
Drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher are typically presumed to be driving under the influence. However, tsome states set lower thresholds for specific driver classes.
- For example, underage or commercial vehicle operators.
However, even with a lower reading, prosecutors can meet the negligence standard. They do so by presenting evidence of the driving itself with drug or alcohol consumption.
Violating Traffic or Safety Laws
Vehicular manslaughter charges can arise when accidents occur due to drivers violating safety statutes. For instance, certain states ask that all windshields remain clear.
If a death occurs because the driver couldn’t see through a windshield, it could lead to a manslaughter charge.
- Similar scenarios include the following.
- Passing vehicles despite “no passing” signs.
- Exceeding speed limits,
- Or making illegal U-turns.
Distinct Legal Violations
For there to be a Vehicular manslaughter sentence, states highlight specific law violations. These may not directly relate to safety but involve critical interests.
Therefore, accidents resulting in death might lead to vehicular manslaughter charges.
For example, under Iowa law, a sober driver causing a death while passing a stopped school bus faces a felony charge. Thus, it will become a federal crime in the United States.
However, other forms of reckless driving not linked to DUI are misdemeanors. Some states classify deaths by drivers attempting to evade police as felonies.
Many accidents happen when drivers fall asleep or are very tired while driving. Thus, let’s assume that someone unfortunately dies in one of these accidents. It doesn’t always lead to vehicular manslaughter sentence.
They look at whether the driver acted carelessly or recklessly, depending on the state’s rules.
For example, if they stayed up all night, and worked all day. Now, if they then tried to drive home after being awake for more than 36 hours. This will definitely lead to a vehicular manslaughter sentence.
Doing things that make it impossible to stay awake before driving is careless behavior.
What Is The Sentence For Vehicular Manslaughter?
Many states distinguish between various levels of vehicular manslaughter.
Statutes typically allow harsher punishments for convictions of vehicular manslaughter where the person is drunk or drugged.
For instance, in Georgia, an intoxicated driver causing a death can face first-degree vehicular homicide. This is a felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
Meanwhile, a driver causing a death while committing a moving traffic offense is guilty of second-degree vehicular homicide. Therefore, this is only a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
The penalties for vehicular manslaughter, both misdemeanors and felonies, vary from state to state.
In Alabama, a person facing vehicular manslaughter charges due to DUI could serve a maximum of five years in prison.
However, someone charged with the same offense in Minnesota might face up to thirty years behind bars.
What Is The Minimum Sentence For Vehicular Manslaughter?
The minimum sentence for vehicular manslaughter varies. The severity and the state where it occurred will determine the length of the sentence.
Second-Degree Manslaughter Involving A Motor Vehicle
It is a Class C felony with a minimum sentence of one to ten years in prison. Moreover, it can also lead to fines reaching up to $10,000.
Additionally, it can come along with a one-year driver’s license suspension
A Misdemeanor From A Vehicular Manslaughter
This will lead to one year in the county jail.
A Felony From A Vehicular Manslaughter
This only carries a sentence of 2, 4, or 6 years in state prison.
Vehicular Manslaughter For Financial Gain
This results in a sentence of 4, 6, or 10 years in state prison.
Fleeing The Scene
This lead to an additional 5-year prison term.
What Is The Sentence For Involuntary Vehicular Manslaughter?
The sentence for involuntary vehicular manslaughter varies across states. It also depends on the presence of aggravating factors. Some examples of involuntary vehicular manslaughter sentence.
In California, a conviction of vehicular manslaughter will lead to imprisonment for four years. Moreover, it can be less if there are no aggravating factors.
In Ohio, individuals found guilty of vehicular manslaughter might face imprisonment for up to 90 days. Moreover, they may face a suspension of their drivers’ license for a maximum of three years.
Federal Laws On Vehicular Manslaughter Sentence
Under federal sentencing guidelines, the base sentence for involuntary manslaughter is a 10 to 16-month prison term. Moreover, it increases if the crime results from an act of negligence.
Aggravated vehicular manslaughter carries a sentence of one to 20 years in prison. Moreover, there could be fines of up to $2,500.
If you’re accused of causing a fatal accident while driving, getting a lawyer’s help right away is really important. They’ll check the evidence, explain your options, and help you decide what to do.
Moreover, they can fight these charges or agree to a specific punishment. Only a lawyer who knows how cases like yours work is best fit for your case.