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What is Vehicular Manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter is when illegal or careless driving has caused the death of another human being. This crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. Read below where Experts have addressed questions and concerns regarding vehicular manslaughter.

Driving Resulting in Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

The following are some of the most common charges related with vehicular manslaughter:

  • Negligent Driving: In some states, ordinary negligence will support a vehicular manslaughter charge. This kind of negligence would be considered driving that lacks care and wisdom that an ordinarily careful person would exercise under the circumstances. In other states, the driving necessary to support this charge must be criminal, culpable or gross negligence.
  • Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): Proving that a driver was intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a common way that prosecutors determine negligent or reckless behavior. This can be proven by eyewitness testimony or self-incriminating statements. Chemical evidence including blood, breath, or urine tests are also ways to validate a DWI.
  • Violating Safety or Other Statutes: This charge can be given when accidents resulting in death happen after the driver violates a safety statute. Passing vehicles in “no passing” zones, driving beyond the posted speed limit and performing illegal U-turns are all examples of violating safety statutes.
  • Driving While Sleepy or Falling Asleep: Many traffic accidents happen when drivers are drowsy. When someone dies as the result, the driver will not necessarily face vehicular manslaughter charges. The judgment lies in whether or not the driver was acting negligently when getting behind the wheel in such a condition. The charge would be appropriate if he/she voluntarily started driving after being sleep deprived. Voluntarily putting oneself in this position is considered negligent and even recklessness.

Penalty and Sentencing

The consequences for this crime can range from deferred or suspended sentences to time in prison.

  • Short Term: Because this charge punishes reckless, but not intentional acts, the range of punishment tend to be lower than an intentional homicide. However, some sentences can range anywhere from 2-20 years in some states. If a defendant is placed on probation, a judge can order them to comply with socialized conditions related to the offense.
  • Long Term: If the charge is ruled as a felony, it will show up in criminal background checks performed by employers. This criminal conviction may make it difficult to find employment or gain entry to colleges. It can also keep you from practicing professions such as teaching, government work, the medical field and many other industries.


Defenses for this type of crime are more limited than those of regular homicide. Since the mental state associated with vehicular manslaughter is said to be reckless, many states will not allow a defendant to claim self-defense; however, there are defenses that are still available. The most common is to disprove causation.

A death is not enough to convict someone of vehicular manslaughter. The state must show a connection between the death and the conduct of the defendant. The approach to this defense is similar to defending a claim in a civil suit involving a car accident case.

When to Hire a Lawyer

If you are facing charges of vehicular manslaughter, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can explain possible defenses and help you develop evidence to support them. The options can range from obtaining a dismissal to pleading guilty as charged in exchange for a specific sentence, negotiating a reduction in charges in exchange for a plea, or go to trial. Only a professional who understands how prosecutors and judges in your courthouse tend to handle cases similar to yours can give you realistic and helpful advice.

Vehicular manslaughter is a serious crime, even if it was an accident. There are many laws associated with this and having an experienced lawyer available to you will ease your worries. Experienced Legal Experts are available online to provide you with information on what steps to take and what to expect. 

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