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Vehicular Homicide Laws in North Carolina

Vehicular homicide, also known as death-by-vehicle in North Carolina, can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. It is charged as a misdemeanor when an individual dies as a result of the motorist texting, speeding, or driving recklessly. When the driver is in violation of the state’s DWI laws and causes another person’s death, the motorist may be charged with felony death-by-vehicle

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. Regardless of the charges you are facing, our team can work to help you avoid the severe penalties that come with a conviction.

Contact us today to dicuss your case with our Charlotte vehicular homicide attorneys!

Proximate Cause: Intentional vs. Unintentional

The unintentional causing another person’s death is significant because the 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 sets 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 the defendant’s actions were A cause. It does not have to be proven it was THE cause.

Misdemeanor Death by Motor Vehicle in NC

In order to convict someone of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle 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 death.

Misdemeanor Death-by-Vehicle Penalties in NC

This offense is punished as an A1 misdemeanor and carries a minimum one-year revocation of the convicted person’s driver's license. This occurs when a driver kills another person because they were driving negligently. A conviction for this offense is punishable by significant fines as well as up to 150 days in jail.

Felony Death by Motor Vehicle in NC

The state must prove the following for a felony death by motor vehicle charge:

  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 death.

Felony Death-by-Vehicle Penalties in NC

This offense is punished as a Class D Felony and also carries a mandatory, minimum one-year license revocation and 38 to 160 months in prison. It is also important to note that unlike involuntary manslaughter this charge does not preclude the prosecution of the defendant for DWI also.

NC Aggravated Felony Death-by-Vehicle Penalties

This occurs when a driver commits a death-by-vehicle and they have a prior DWI conviction. This a Class D felony punishable by 64 to 160 months in prison as well as significant fines.

Involuntary Manslaughter in NC

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 are facing charges for vehicular homicide, contact the experienced team at Jetton & Meredith to begin mounting your defense today.

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