If you unintentionally cause an accident that leads to the death of passengers, occupants in other cars, or pedestrians, you can possibly face charges for vehicular manslaughter. You can also face vehicular manslaughter charges if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or you were driving recklessly at the time of the accident.
Before vehicular manslaughter became an applicable charge, drivers would be charged with manslaughter. However, juries were reluctant to associate “manslaughter” with a traffic accident. To address this issue, vehicular manslaughter charges usually carry lesser penalties than a straight manslaughter charge.
Determining Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
To determine if vehicular manslaughter charges are appropriate for an accident that results in death, states look for the following things:
- Negligent Driving: In a lot of states, negligence or carelessness on the part of the driver is enough to support vehicular manslaughter charges. Negligent driving is characterized by lack of care and prudence that an ordinary individual would have under similar circumstances.
- Criminal Negligence: Other states rely on more than just ordinary negligence to justify vehicular manslaughter charges. These states use criminal, culpable, or gross negligence, as well as the reckless disregard of another person’s safety, to determine if vehicular manslaughter charges apply to a case.
- Driving While Intoxicated: Establishing that a driver was drunk at the time a fatal accident occurred is a common way justify vehicular manslaughter charges. Proof that a driver was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident is sufficient enough to warrant a vehicular manslaughter charge. Drivers who cause a fatal accident under the influence of prescribed drugs can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
- Safety Statute Violations: Vehicular manslaughter charges can be applied to fatal accidents that happen after the driver violated a safety statute.
- Driving While Fatigued: When a fatal accident was caused because a driver fell asleep at the wheel, it does not necessarily amount to vehicular manslaughter. If the driver voluntarily put themselves in a position to drive while fatigued, they can possibly face manslaughter charges.
In many vehicular manslaughter cases, both drivers share partial responsibility for the accident. Courts will usually apportion the blame using the theory of “contributory negligence.”
Were you involved in a fatal car accident? Are you facing vehicular manslaughter charges? Contact our Denver criminal defense attorney to request a no-cost consultation today.