Vehicular Homicide

Accidents happen when driving, and in many cases, people are injured through simple negligence or chance incidents, rather than carelessness and lack of consideration. Vehicular homicide is more than a failure of using normal care while driving and involves a reckless level of criminal driving conduct, such as drag racing. In August 2018, a Florida man was arrested on charges of vehicular homicide after he engaged in racing with another driver and caused a fatal collision. The penalties for driving accidents that result in civil liability such as fines are radically different from those involving reckless driving and the resulting criminal penalties that can come from a death being caused. 

US law deals with homicide in both Federal statutes and on a state-by-state basis, with most states having specific laws covering vehicular homicide in particular. The penalties for these kinds of actions can be extremely high, and it’s critical that you engage a lawyer as soon as possible to plan your defense strategy. 

What is Vehicular Homicide?

Florida law covers vehicular homicide under Florida Statute 782.071, which states that “vehicular homicide” is defined as:

the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.

It’s important to note that Florida law considers an unborn child to be another person, meaning that if you get into an accident with a pregnant person, or while you are pregnant, you can also be charged with vehicular homicide for the death of an unborn child.

Vehicular homicide can be charged as either a first or second degree felony. For the crime to be charged as a first degree felony, the person must have:

  1. Known, or should have known, that the accident occurred; and
  2. Failed to give information and render aid. 

Essentially, if you have been involved in a hit and run incident that caused death, and you failed to stop to help, this will be charged as a first-degree felony, carrying higher penalties. 

For vehicular homicide in the second degree, you can be sentenced for up to 15 years; first-degree vehicular homicide may result in imprisonment for up to 30 years. In either case, you can additionally be faced with fines of up to $10,000. In both cases, you can also be required to be on probation for 15 or 30 years in addition to your prison sentence. 

Defense Strategies

Due to the severity of these charges and the major impacts they can have, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible. There are a number of defense strategies that you can consider and discuss with your lawyer if you are charged with vehicular homicide. 

  • First, question whether you were the person that caused the death or injury. Was the other driver at fault, or were you even the person driving the car? 
  • Another thing to consider is that the prosecution will need to show that your actions caused the death: was the accident unrelated to your conduct? This could be for instance if there was a pothole in the road, extremely bad weather, or a car malfunction.
  • In some cases, you may be able to show that you were involuntarily intoxicated or not in control of the vehicle, such as through a medication mistake, or a drink being spiked.
  • Your lawyer can also hire an Accident Reconstruction to attach the Law Enforcement’s Opinion that you caused the accident, to show that you were not at fault. 
  • Your lawyer can also hire an Expert Doctor to review the deceased Coroner’s Report to determine if the deceased driver/seriously injured driver may have been under in the influence of alcohol and or drugs, to show that the deceased driver’s alcohol and or drug impairment may have caused the fatal or serious accident.

Call Stechschulte Nell For Help 

If you have been accused of vehicular homicide, the law office of Stechschulte Nell can advise you. Don’t wait. Call our top-rated Florida law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced federal defense attorney. We’re available 24/7 to take your call.

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