Vehicular homicide is a serious criminal offense that carries severe penalties and can result in a lengthy prison sentence. It occurs when a driver causes the death of another person while operating a motor vehicle in an illegal, reckless, or negligent manner.
This blog post will discuss the legal definition of vehicular homicide, the possible penalties associated with the crime, and how to protect yourself if you are ever charged with this offense. With this information, you can ensure that you understand your rights and know what steps to take in the event of a vehicular homicide accusation.
The Definition of Vehicular Homicide
Vehicular homicide is defined as causing another person’s or unborn child’s death due to negligent or reckless behavior while operating a motor vehicle. The crime is often charged as a felony and carries significant penalties upon conviction, depending on the circumstances.
There are two types of vehicular homicide: involuntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide by intoxication. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person’s negligence or recklessness results in a death, but it does not require that the person intended to cause the death. Vehicular homicide by intoxication is similar but requires that the accused was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.
To be found guilty of vehicular homicide, the prosecution must prove that the accused’s actions showed a conscious disregard for human life. This means that the accused knew their actions could result in someone’s death and acted with an intentional disregard for the potential consequences.
Some common examples of behavior that may be considered reckless or negligent include speeding, weaving between lanes, running red lights, ignoring stop signs, and driving under the influence.
Proximate Causes: Intentional Vs. Unintentional?
When it comes to proximate cause, or the immediate action leading to death, vehicular homicide cases can be classified into two categories: intentional and unintentional.
Intentional Vehicular Homicide: Intentional vehicular homicide occurs when the accused driver’s actions directly cause the death of another person. The driver’s behavior must be reckless, grossly negligent, and conscious for the crime to be labeled as intentional vehicular homicide. In some states, these actions may even amount to murder if there is evidence of premeditation.
Unintentional Vehicular Homicide: Unintentional vehicular homicide is less severe than intentional vehicular homicide and requires that the driver acted negligently. This includes driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, disobeying traffic laws, or engaging in any other behavior that puts other drivers at risk. Unlike intentional vehicular homicide, unintentional vehicular homicide does not require evidence of malice or intent.
In most states, intentional and unintentional vehicular homicide are considered felony offenses and may carry jail time. It is important to note that there is no universal definition of vehicular homicide, and the penalties vary from state to state.
Types of Vehicular Homicide That Do Not Involve a DUI
Vehicular homicide can be caused by various activities that do not involve driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Some examples of these activities include drag racing, speeding excessively, and attempting stunts.
Drag racing is a motorsport in which drivers compete to cross a finish line first. Participants often drive vehicles that have been modified for speed and acceleration. Excessive speed is defined as going over the posted speed limit, regardless of whether a vehicle is modified or not.
Stunts are intriguing things done to attract notice and gain notoriety. Examples of stunts include drifting and “doughnuts,” which is when drivers spin their cars in circles and circles of smoke in a designated area. All of these activities put all road users in immediate danger and could lead to a charge of vehicular homicide.
In addition, other forms of recklessness can also lead to a charge of vehicular homicide. Driving while distracted or while tired are two major examples. Drivers should never text while driving, as this puts them and other road users in danger. It is also important that drivers are well-rested and alert before getting behind the wheel, as this will reduce the risk of an accident.
If a driver is too tired, they should pull over and rest before continuing their journey. These steps can help drivers avoid being charged with vehicular homicide.
Types of Vehicular Homicide Potential Penalties in Ohio?
The classification of a vehicular homicide case and the severity of the penalties depend on whether or not the driver was suspected of drinking if their license was suspended and if they have been convicted of a similar crime before.
Vehicular manslaughter is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, fines of up to $750, and license suspension. If the driver was driving without a license or on a suspended license or was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, vehicular homicide, or vehicular assault before, they can be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail.
Vehicular homicide is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail, a fine of $1,000, and a five-year license suspension in Ohio. If the vehicular homicide was committed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it can be charged as an aggravated vehicular homicide.
Aggravated vehicular homicide involving DUI/drugged driving or boating under the influence is a second-degree felony with a punishment of two to eight years in prison, fines up to $15,000, and permanent loss of the driver’s license.
Defenses to Vehicular Homicide
In cases of vehicular homicide, defendants may have several defenses they can raise in their defense. Generally, the most common defense to vehicular homicide is that the defendant was not in control of the vehicle at the time of the accident or did not cause the death.
A defendant could also claim that the death occurred due to an unforeseeable event, such as a medical emergency, and that they could not have prevented it. Additionally, if the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may be able to prove that their mental state did not meet the legal definition of “reckless” or “negligent” driving.
In some cases, the defendant may be able to prove that they were acting in self-defense or in defense of another person when the accident occurred. For example, if the victim attempted to cause serious physical injury to the defendant or another person before the accident, the defendant may be able to claim that they acted in self-defense by using their vehicle to stop the victim.
Finally, defendants need to remember that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of vehicular homicide for a conviction to occur. Therefore, any evidence that can be presented to cast doubt on the prosecutor’s case can help support a defense against vehicular homicide.