Driving heavy vehicles on the road is always risky. You never know when a little distraction can cause a severe accident. What happens when you kill someone from that accident?
Such an incident is considered vehicular manslaughter. You can be charged with severe punishment for a vehicle accident, causing death to someone else.
Just like murder, manslaughter is a serious crime. If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter, you must seek lawyer support as soon as possible to fight the legal battle.
Before that, this article will solely focus on providing a basic yet detailed understand of manslaughter caused by vehicle accidents.
What is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Before we dive deep into the topic, you need to understand what vehicular manslaughter means. Manslaughter is a form of homicide. A homicide is considered manslaughter when there is no preplan, motivation, and intention to kill a person or a group of people. Even so, manslaughter is almost similarly dangerous as murder.
When a person drives recklessly that causes deaths of pedestrians, passengers, or occupants of another car, that driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter can be justified when the driver was driving under substance influence, recklessly, or illegally.
An accident is almost always unintentional and unexpected. As a result, drivers unintentionally killing someone for their reckless and negligent driving can be charged with a manslaughter crime.
Classification of Vehicular Manslaughter
The severity of the penalties for vehicular manslaughter will depend on the type of crime committed. There can be 3 classifications or seriousness of the crime a driver can commit.
Vehicular Manslaughter from Unlawful Behavior
Unlawful behavior includes either committing a misdemeanor or a felony. Among the two, a misdemeanor is a less severe crime than a felony.
Committing a misdemeanor means that you have been seriously negligent of other people’s lives. This further refers to the fact that you may have had enough opportunities to avoid the collision but ended up being reckless or negligent towards human life. This chain of thought could have caused the accident and ended up killing someone.
On the other hand, a felony is a violent act of crime. In the aspect of vehicular collision, felony charges can be brought against you when you deliberately drove recklessly from an outside influence. This can be from your co-passenger or drug abuse.
Vehicular Manslaughter from Ordinary Negligence
Ordinary negligence during driving can be considered less severe. Therefore, manslaughter charges brought against you could be misdemeanor charges.
Ordinary negligence involves taking your eyes off the road, resetting the seat, or even changing the song in the car stereo system. As you can see, these distractions are not serious. However, the accident that caused death to a person from such acts will be considered vehicular manslaughter.
Vehicular Manslaughter from Gross Negligence
This is the most severe form of vehicular manslaughter. It involves the most reckless and outrageous accident fatality that could have only happened due to extreme recklessness.
Such acts include complete disregard for human life. The driver had no care for a person’s life and ended up being entirely negligent. This involved being under the alcoholic influence or extreme rage that drove the desire to kill someone unintentionally.
Vehicular Manslaughter Penalties and Sentencing
Different type of vehicular manslaughter has different penalties carried out against them. In addition, the different state passes different sentences according to their legal system.
If a driver is charged with ordinary negligence, he or she may not face extreme penalties. There could still be some jail time and some form of a monetary fine.
On the other hand, unlawful behavior can bring many extreme charges. This includes several years of imprisonment and a high amount of money to settle the charges. Moreover, gross negligence can even include death penalties as well if appropriately proven.
5 Factors Driving the Charges of Vehicular Manslaughter
Five crucial factors can trigger the charges brought against a driver for vehicular manslaughter. These can also affect the penalties and sentences for the driver.
Common Negligence While Driving
As mentioned already, the kind of negligence you show while driving will affect the manslaughter charges. If you are careless of another human life, there is no doubt that you will be sentenced to extreme punishment.
However, ordinary negligence such as being distracted for a split second, doing something normal in the car while driving, or even fixing the radio or the seat can make your case easier.
Driving Under Intoxication
One of the most common reasons behind vehicle accidents is driving while intoxicated. This includes substance abuse that can jeopardize a person’s regular thinking capacity.
Alcohol consumption is another form of intoxication. Drivers driving under such influences will be charged for death on highway roads.
Recklessness and Criminal Negligence
Criminal negligence is much more severe than common negligence. This involves having no care for human life. The driver is so careless and reckless that he or she feels no guilt of killing another person due to a road accident.
A scenario where the driver drove at an exceedingly high speed with a high blood alcohol level and ended up taking a person’s life will surely face extreme charges.
Falling Asleep While Driving
Many road accidents occur due to the driver falling asleep or feeling drowsy while driving. While this can be a typical situation while driving, killing someone due to such a condition can bring manslaughter charges.
Especially when the driver was negligent about his or her daily sleep routine, for instance, the driver could have been awake all night or worked all day before driving at night. This can bring serious charges in front of the driver responsible for the death of a person.
Violating Safety Protocols and Legal Rules
Finally, proving the driver’s negligence in following safety protocols and traffic rules can also bring serious charges against the driver.
Taking wrongful U-turns, driving in a no-sign road, not following a red light, and many other violations can be dangerous for the driver and any other person. These are some classic examples of reckless driving.
Charging a Non-driver for Vehicular Manslaughter
In most cases, it is two drivers who could be responsible for the collision. Perhaps you were driving fast, but the car coming from the opposite direction was fast too. Both the drivers can sort things out in a civil context.
However, it is rare to share negligence in a criminal context. In almost every situation, it is one of the two drivers who will be held guilty by the jury.
Another scenario where the driver may not be found guilty is when the co-driver or a non-driver is at fault. For instance, suppose a person was jaywalking. That person has violated every traffic rule in the book and caused the driver to make a wrong turn.
As a result, someone gets hit and dies on the spot. If proven properly, that pedestrian can be held responsible for the accident. However, the driver must not be under any intoxication or reckless and negligent behavior.
Possible Defense against Vehicular Manslaughter
The most common defense against vehicular manslaughter cases includes excluding evidence that can make someone look guilty. For instance, the defendant can claim that evidence like blood alcohol level to be excluded as it violates his or her constitutional rights.
Moreover, the defendant can prepare an argument claiming that the intoxication level was not a primary cause of the accident. The best argument in such cases would be to provide pieces of evidence where an outside force was more responsible for the accident and the death of a person.
Furthermore, the defendant can present medical documents that demonstrate the intoxication or drug level as a medical condition. However, this also can undermine the defendant’s ability to drive a car. Therefore, you can still be charged with negligence.
If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter, it is crucial to seek lawyer support as soon as possible. Being charged with such a serious criminal Act can take you through every complexity of a legal case.
An experienced and skillful attorney can fight your battle. Charges brought against you could be extremely severe as manslaughter is a horrible crime. A lawyer can provide you with options with less serious sentences.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Years Do You Get for Vehicular Manslaughter?
Depending on the seriousness of the crime, vehicular manslaughter can get you from 4 to 12 years of imprisonment.
Which is Worse Vehicular Homicide or Manslaughter?
In most states, vehicular manslaughter is also known as vehicular homicide. However, manslaughter, in general, is a less serious form of homicide.
What Kind of Crime is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter is a Class C felony. It is a form of vehicular homicide that can either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Is Killing Someone in a Car Accident Manslaughter?
Suppose your negligent and reckless driving causes the death of a person from a vehicle accident. In that case, that will be determined as vehicular manslaughter.
What Happens If You Commit Vehicular Manslaughter?
If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter, you will be put upon a jury to determine your fault. The whole case will move to court for necessary proofs and evidence presentation. You can be punished with jail time and/or a monetary fine.