Vehicular manslaughter is defined as causing the death of another human being by driving a motor vehicle illegally. Illegal driving of an automobile, bus, truck, motorcycle, etc. may involve any of the following:
- Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- Driving recklessly, with gross negligence, or while speeding
- Driving while texting or using an electronic device illegally
- Exhibiting symptoms of road rage
- Engaging in an unauthorized racing contest
The charge of vehicular manslaughter involves a driver who was driving illegally, aware of the risks to others on the road but disregarding them.
Levels of Vehicular Manslaughter Charges in New York State
In order to convict a defendant of vehicular manslaughter, it is not sufficient to prove that someone died in an accident. For the charge to stick, the prosecution must be able to establish causation. In other words, the state must be prepared to demonstrate that the defendant’s illegal driving resulted in the victim’s death.
Second-degree vehicular manslaughter charges may be elevated to first degree charges if the driver:
- Had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .18 percent or above
- Was driving with a license already suspended for DWI
- Refused to take breathalyzer, blood or urine tests
- Has a prior vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter conviction
- Caused the death of more than one person
- Caused the death of a passenger in his/her own car under the age of 15
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter
A conviction for second-degree vehicular manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 7 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. If you are convicted of first-degree vehicular manslaughter, however, although the fine may remain the same, you can be sentenced to up to 15 years of incarceration. If you have previously been convicted of a related crime, the sentence may be extended by as much as 20 years. Nonetheless, as with other criminal cases, the judge has leeway in sentencing depending on the unique aspects of the case.
The judicial process also makes room for special, individualized consequences, such as requiring the defendant to face a victim-impact panel, restricting the defendant’s possession of an electronic device with texting capabilities, or paying restitution to the family of the deceased for medical expenses. The consequences of a vehicular manslaughter conviction do not end there. The family of the person killed in the accident may pursue the defendant in a civil suit in which large amounts of money may be demanded compensatory and/or punitive damages for pain, suffering, and emotional and financial loss.
In addition to fines, imprisonment, and the possibility of a civil lawsuit, those convicted of felonious vehicular manslaughter face having a criminal record for the rest of their lives. That record can be accessed by employers, licensing boards, educational institutions, and government agencies, and may interfere with gaining admission to a college or university or finding employment as a teacher, government employee or medical professional, among other occupations. Also, landlords often discover a defendant’s record during background checks which may limit housing opportunities. Moreover, an individual with a felony conviction may not vote, sit on a jury, or run for public office.
Possible Criminal Defenses to Vehicular Manslaughter
Because even lesser vehicular manslaughter charges are extremely serious, it is essential to have a highly skilled criminal defense attorney at your side when confronting them. At Barket Epstein, our team is well-prepared to fight aggressively for your rights. We are dedicated to evaluating your case in depth and using the appropriate strategy to either prove your innocence or throw doubt on your guilt.
Possible defenses we may use in your vehicular manslaughter case include attempts to:
- Exclude incriminating evidence because either your constitutional rights were violated or law enforcement officials did not follow proper procedures when collecting evidence
- Question the accuracy of blood alcohol level or drug tests
- Prove that your driving was not the cause, or was not the only cause, of the fatality
- Prove that your apparent intoxication was the result of another medical condition or event
If are facing charges of vehicular manslaughter, you should consult promptly with one of our talented vehicular crimes attorneys so that we can act quickly to protect your rights, your reputation, and your freedom. Feel free to contact us now.