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Vehicular Manslaughter + Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

June 25, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Cars are essential. However, they can also be highly dangerous things. The right to a driver’s license is not absolute. Everyone on the road must obey all necessary road rules. Violating any rules may result in varied legal penalties. Of all of these laws, the one that must be seen as primary is the one that makes sure no one is hurt as a result of the driver’s actions. Any driver who causes an accident that results in the death of the occupant of other vehicles, those in the vehicle or any pedestrian may be charged with a crime known as vehicular manslaughter or what is known as vehicular homicide. This is a very serious charge. Causing the death of another person, even by accident, can result in penalties that include fines and a jail or prison sentence.

Certain Conditions

There are certain circumstances that may lead to this charge. If the driver had more than the allotted legal alcohol limit, this statue may apply. The same is true if they are using illegal drugs. If they are using medications that they are not supposed to be using while driving that might have side effects such as sleepiness, the person can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

People can also be charged with this crime if they were driving with recklessly such as ignoring posted traffic signs indicating road work was in progress. If someone was speeding well above the indicated speed limit when the accident happened, this can also be considered a form of vehicular manslaughter.

Unlike many other legal terms, this one is fairly new. Previous, those who drove drunk or sped too much were typically accused of manslaughter. Manslaughter is used when someone kills someone by accident because they were criminally negligent. However, juries were reluctant to see this as a killing. The new clarifies the form of killing and allows for more precise language that can help indicate exactly what happened and why it happened.

Types of Charges

The different types of vehicular manslaughter may take many forms depending on the state. For example, negligent driving is a legal term that is used widely. It means that the driver did not exercise the traditional caution people normally use when they are driving. Someone who is texting while they are driving and killed someone in the process can be considered a negligent driver.

Another type of vehicular manslaughter charge may fall under what is known as criminal negligence. Some states require a higher standard to be charged with vehicular manslaughter rather than simply inattentive driving. A person must be doing many things at the same time that led to a death. For example, if someone is speeding while they are intoxicated and ignores a red light, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if they kill someone while on the road.

Driving while intoxicated is a fairly simply and common problem. If someone is doing prohibited drugs or drinking too much before they drive, this is a way for the prosecutor to establish their actions were negligent before they went behind the wheel. At the same time, it is not enough to show the driver had too much to drink or used drugs. The second part of the charge must be met. A prosecutor must be able to demonstrate the driver was ignoring the rules of the road while driving.

Having a certain blood alcohol level in certain states is enough to establish intoxication. These levels may be lower for people under twenty-one or commercial drivers. People can also be charged if they did not do enough to keep their car free to debris such as during a snowstorm. The same is true if someone stayed up all night and got behind the wheel. The key is the driver’s state of mind and behavior before they began driving. If someone is convicted, they can face prison time and monetary penalties. A person can also be sued for damages in civil courts. The statue of limitations for this kind of crime varies by state. In California, for example, the state can charge someone with this crime up to six years after it was committed.

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