01 Jul 20

NY Penal Law § 125.13: Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2023, 01:15 am

If you strike and kill a pedestrian or another driver with your vehicle, it could be perceived as much more than just a bad car accident. It might also be a serious criminal offense. Pursuant to New York’s criminal code, if you are driving your car while you are intoxicated or transporting dangerous materials, and you bring about someone’s death, you are committing crime.  Under these circumstances, you could be charged with one of three criminal offenses.  These include vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, and aggravated vehicular homicide. For you to be prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter in the first degree under New York Penal Law § 125.13, you bring about the death of another individual while driving and:

  1. Your Blood alcohol Content  (BAC) was at .08 or higher,
  2. Your driving privileges had previously been suspended in another state as a consequence of a conviction of driving while intoxicated,
  3. Your driving privileges had previously been suspended in another state due to the fact that you refused to take a test to determine if you were driving while intoxicated,
  4. Within the past 10 years, you have been convicted of driving while intoxicated in New York or any other state,
  5. You brought about the death of more than one person,
  6. You have a previous conviction of vehicular manslaughter on your criminal record, or
  7. A child who is younger than 15 years old was in the vehicle with you and was killed in the collision.

For Example

Nelly spends the night hanging out at a bar until the early hours of the next morning and then decides to drive herself home. Her friends offer to drive her.  They discourage Nelly from driving herself since they believe that she is intoxicated. They even remind Nelly that she already has been convicted of the crime of driving while intoxicated once before. Nelly assures her friends that she is not so intoxicated that she cannot make it home.  Along the way, Nelly ends up driving the wrong way down a one-way street and gets into a collision with another vehicle. Tragically, the driver of the other vehicle dies.  If the woman’s BAC shows that she is legally intoxicated, then Nelly can be charged and prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter in the first degree because of her previous conviction for driving while intoxicated within the past 10 years, or if her BAC level is .08 or higher.

Offenses that are Related

Reckless driving: New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1212

Vehicular manslaughter in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 125.12

Aggravated vehicular homicide: New York Penal Law § 125.14

Possible Defenses

Should you be able to challenge the veracity of the chemical test that would be used to demonstrate that you were intoxicated above the legal BAC limit at the time of the accident, then you might have a successful defense against a charge of vehicular manslaughter in the first degree. For instance, there are prescribed procedures that must be followed to ensure the accuracy of the chemical test.

The Sentence

Since vehicular manslaughter in the first degree is categorized as a class C felony, the maximum possible sentence you could face is 15 years in prison.  You could also be ordered to pay a  substantial fine. On top of that, your driving privileges will be suspended or revoked.