If you’ve been involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of another person, you could be charged with vehicular homicide. Whether you were driving distracted or under the influence during the accident, you still have the right to a fair trial. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between serving the minimum or maximum sentence.
If you’re facing a vehicular homicide charge, obtaining legal representation from the beginning can help you throughout the entire legal process, starting at the interrogation phase. The Law Offices of Ossie Brown has been defending Louisiana residents since 1984 against criminal charges like sex crimes, theft crimes, aggravated assault, and more. Our legal team is ready to fight for your rights, no matter what the prosecution throws our way. Discuss your vehicular homicide case with one of our experienced Baton Rouge attorneys by calling 225-343-1111 today.
What is Vehicular Homicide?
According to Louisiana Revised Statute 14.32.1, a person operating a car, boat, or other motor vehicles that caused the death of passengers, other drivers or their passengers, or pedestrians could face a vehicular manslaughter or homicide charge. To be charged with vehicular homicide, the operator of the vehicle must be proven to have been driving under the influence, driving negligently or recklessly, or in any other illegal manner.
Involuntary manslaughter can also be referred to as unintentional vehicular manslaughter if the driver accidentally kills someone. The involuntary manslaughter charges can be less severe because the driver had no intention of harming another when they got behind the wheel.
Types of Driving That Can Lead to Vehicular Homicide Charges
A driver that operates their motor vehicle negligently or with reckless disregard for human beings’ safety could cause an accident resulting in death. The following types of driving can commonly result in the driver being charged with vehicular homicide.
Negligent driving is the leading cause of car accidents in the United States. For a driver to be considered negligent, they fail to observe the duty of care that drivers must obey. This can be reckless driving or driving while distracted, like texting while driving. Ordinary negligence involves any activity while driving that disregards the care and safety that all drivers must observe while behind the wheel. A person may be considered driving negligently if they look at their GPS and can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if their inattention to the road causes a fatal accident.
Criminal, Culpable or Gross Negligence
In certain states, negligent driving must be more severe than the negligence outlined in the paragraph above. Gross negligence, also known as criminal or culpable negligence, must occur in order for the driver to be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Examples of operating a vehicle in a grossly negligent manner include someone driving with an unreasonably high alcohol level at high speed, blatantly ignoring a red light, and driving on the wrong side of the road. Drivers who get behind the wheel that completely disregard the safety of another human being can be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter.
Driving While Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
Drunk driving or driving while under the influence of drugs can often cause a fatal collision resulting in a vehicular manslaughter charge. A driver whose blood alcohol concentration measures 0.08% or above is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol. Vehicular manslaughter charges can also be applied if the driver’s BAC level is below 0.08% but are also under the influence of prescription or nonprescription drugs.
A Louisiana driver can also face vehicular manslaughter charges if they operate their motor vehicle while under the influence of prescription or nonprescription drugs, whether legal or illegal. To be charged with vehicular manslaughter, the car accident must have been caused by the following:
- The driver is under the influence of a Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V controlled substance.
- The driver is under the influence of one or more legal prescription or nonprescription drugs and has knowingly exceeded the recommended dosage.
- A Schedule I, II, II, or IV controlled substance is detected in the driver’s bloodstream unless prescribed.
A driver could face a vehicular manslaughter charge if they caused a car accident resulting in the death of another person while under the influence of a combination of alcohol and a legally available drug. For example, an intoxicated driver driving drunk with Xanax in their system can be charged with vehicular homicide even if the prescription is legally theirs and prescribed by their doctor. It’s important to pay attention to the warning labels on prescription medications to determine whether it’s safe to drive after consumption.
Violating Safety Statutes or Traffic Rules
Drivers can face vehicular manslaughter cases if they disregard traffic laws or safety statutes. For example, most states require that a driver’s windshield be clear. If a driver caused an accident resulting in another person’s death because they could not see out of their windshield, they could be charged with vehicular homicide.
If a driver disregards traffic laws like passing vehicles in a “no-pass zone,” driving above the posted speed limit, and performing an illegal U-turn, can all potentially face a vehicular manslaughter charge if the disregard of traffic laws results in death.
Driving while fatigued can be just as serious as driving under the influence. When you drive while tired, the results can be catastrophic. Like drunk driving or driving on drugs, your reflexes will be slower and could cause a fatal car accident.
However, fatigued driving may not result in a vehicular homicide charge. To decide the severity of the criminal charge, it must be determined if the driver acted negligently by getting behind the wheel while they were fatigued.
Vehicular Homicide Penalties in Louisiana
A driver could risk severe penalties if charged with vehicular manslaughter. In Louisiana, the punishments for vehicular homicide are:
- A fine between $2,000 to $15,000.
- 5 to 30 year prison sentence with or without hard labor. A minimum of three years must be served without the benefit of parole or suspension.
- Five years in prison without parole, probation, or suspended sentencing if you had a prior conviction.
- Drivers charged with vehicular homicide must also participate in a substance abuse program.
Many circumstances can determine the severity of the punishment in your vehicular homicide case. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney from the beginning is critical to avoiding the maximum sentence and more severe penalties that could be imposed from a vehicular manslaughter conviction.
Possible Defenses for Vehicular Homicide
As soon as you’ve been charged with vehicular homicide, obtaining legal representation is important. This is key in building your defense during the trial. During the interrogations and interviews, your criminal defense attorney will ensure you only provide them with the mandatory information they require.
Leading up to trial, your legal team may collect their own evidence in order to strengthen your defense and prove your innocence. They may collect their own photos, tire tracks, and other material related to the accident itself. Your legal team may also conduct their own set of interviews with witnesses. Any other evidence supporting your defense, like medical records, can only help build you a stronger case.
If you were driving under the influence and caused an accident resulting in death, the possible defense your legal team may use is referred to as “retrograde extrapolation” or a “rising BAC defense.” After being pulled over, the police officer may take you to the station for the breathalyzer or blood test. It could take thirty minutes to get to the police station. If there’s an issue with that testing system, they may have to take you to another station to conduct the test, which could mean you’re not being tested for up to an hour after you were pulled over.
During this time, your BAC level could increase; maybe you had a drink right before leaving a party. When you were pulled over, however, you were within the legal limit that does not violate the statute, but while you had to wait to get tested, your BAC level increased due to that last-minute drink.
Using the retrograde extrapolation defense, your legal team will argue that your BAC level would have been lower had you been tested sooner. Or maybe you have an underlying condition that caused your BAC level to be inflated, like diabetes. Your legal team will argue that the passage in time affected your BAC level or a health issue caused you to have a higher BAC level than you actually had during the crash.
Call Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Offices of Ossie Brown Today
If you were involved in a car accident that caused the death of another person, you could face a vehicular manslaughter charge. The Law Offices of Ossie Brown has been representing individuals facing criminal charges since 1984 in the Baton Rouge area and are prepared to represent you. Not only does our legal team understand the severity of a vehicular homicide charge, but we will fight for you to receive the best outcome from your criminal case. To discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge, call 225-343-1111 today.