What is Vehicular Homicide?

What is Vehicular Homicide?

An accident that results in a fatality is always a serious situation, however, the filing of criminal charges often compounds this situation and makes it much worse. The involvement of the police, insurance, and lawyers makes it crucial to secure your own legal representation as quickly as possible. This article will seek to explain some of the more common and more serious, criminal charges that are commonly brought when there is a fatal motor vehicle accident.

First, we will examine misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. In order to convict someone of this charge the state has to prove the following things:

  1. That the defendant unintentionally caused the death of another person,
  2. Was driving in violation of any state or local law other than DWI, and
  3. The violation of the law in the second condition was the proximate cause of the death.

This offense is punished as an A1 misdemeanor and carries a minimum one-year revocation of the convicted person’s drivers license.

Second, we will detail felony death by motor vehicle, where the state must prove the following:

  1. The defendant unintentionally causes the death of another person,
  2. The defendant was engaged in the offense of impaired driving, and
  3. The commission of the offense of impaired driving was the proximate cause of the death.

This offense is punished as a Class D Felony and also carries a mandatory, minimum one-year license revocation. It is also important to note that unlike involuntary manslaughter (see below) this charge does not preclude the prosecution of the defendant for DWI also.

Both of the above charges use similar language that is important to distinguish. The unintentional causing of another person’s death is significant because intent is often classified as one of the degrees of murder. Also important is the language regarding proximate cause, which means that if the person driving in violation of the law set the events in motion that caused the death, even if not the direct cause, the state may still be able to meet its burden for this element. The state must only prove defendant’s actions were A cause. It does not have to be proven it was THE cause.

Finally, another serious charge that the state may choose to bring is involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is proven in North Carolina by the state proving the defendant was engaged in a crime that is not a felony (like DWI), or in a culpably negligent act, and that they caused the death of another person. It is important to know that if a person has been charged with, and jeopardy has attached to felony death by motor vehicle, they cannot be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident that has resulted in a fatality or if you have questions please be sure to contact an attorney who understands the law and can provide you with excellent representation. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help you.


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