When a Car Accident Can be treated as a Criminal Offense

Most of us take for granted that each time we strap ourselves into the driver’s seat of a car we are in control of a machine that can be very dangerous. Especially in light of the fact that when accidents do occur, advances in safety technology have greatly reduced the chance of even minor injury. Of course, people still do get hurt in car accidents. And, when a person dies as a result, there exists the possibility that criminal charges will be brought against the person driving the vehicle that caused the accident.

Vehicular Homicide

Under Florida law, vehicular homicide is the killing of a human being, or the killing of a viable fetus by injury to the mother, caused by driving a vehicle in a reckless manner, likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another person. There are many factors that may affect the determination of what reckless driving is and this determination is often the critical factor in vehicular homicide cases. However, making a determination of what reckless is can be difficult, as it is largely a subjective matter.

Vehicular homicide is a second degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 15 years. However, it becomes a first degree felony if:

  1. at the time of the accident, the person knew, or should have known, that the accident occurred; and
  2. the person failed to give information and render aid as required by Florida statute.

According to §316.062, the information required includes the registration number of the vehicle being driven, as well as the person’s name, address, and driver’s license. The person must also give reasonable assistance, which includes transporting, or making arrangements for transporting, the injured person to receive medical treatment if it is necessary or the injured person requests it. A first degree felony is punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

DUI Manslaughter

A person commits DUI manslaughter if he or she kills another person while driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any chemical substance. For DUI manslaughter, unlike vehicular homicide, the driver does not need to be driving “in a reckless manner.” Therefore, if a person is driving under the influence and kills someone, it is irrelevant how “well” the person was driving.

DUI manslaughter, like vehicular homicide, is a second degree felony, except in cases where the person leaves the scene, at which point it becomes a first degree felony. However, a conviction for DUI manslaughter has a mandatory minimum prison sentence of four years.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

Both vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter are serious offenses with potentially significant penalties. Yet, unlike other crimes, they are offenses in which it is easier to imagine a scenario where normally law-abiding citizens are accused of committing one of them. If you are facing one of these charges, you should contact the experienced West Palm Beach attorneys at Farkas & Crowley, P.A. as soon as possible.