Drinking can be a fun social activity especially when done with family, friends, and peers you know and trust. Unfortunately, some people still consider drinking and driving an option with reasons such as “my home is nearby” or “my place is just down the street,” and some don’t get to consider the reality of accidents and incidents that can occur when under the influence. We have to understand that driving while intoxicated with alcohol comes with its own sets of penalties, as this is a serious matter. Your health and the health of others are compromised when we push ourselves to drive while intoxicated, which is why a lot of states have different interpretations of drunk driving regulations.
Drunk driving cases get more severe if there’s vehicular homicide and vehicular assault involved. While you may not be driving while intoxicated, it’s still better to understand things you need to know about vehicular homicide and vehicular assault law while under DUI in order to know the best course of action should you encounter this situation.
Please do remember however that this article simply provides you with a background on vehicular homicide and vehicular assault law, and is not to be treated as legal advice. If you have specific concerns, it’s still better to communicate them to a legal professional to get a proper background on the issue.
States have different laws, especially when it comes to driving under the influence. These laws also take effect when the DUI has caused a death, as some more charges can be put in the picture. These include:
- Aggravated DUI
- Vehicular homicide
- Negligent homicide
- DUI manslaughter
- Vehicular manslaughter
Difference Between the Charges
It is perhaps the mental state of the defendant that tends to differentiate the kinds of charges that can be attached to DUI accidents that have become fatal. These crimes tend to have two elements, which is the mental state and the prohibited act. The prosecution will have to prove that both parts have happened in order for them to get a conviction.
- In the case of a DUI that has resulted in death, the prohibited act will most likely be the same: that the defendant who was driving under the influence has caused the death of another person. It is actually the mental state that tends to make the difference on the entire decision on the matter.
- According to Lawyers, this is because the DUI is considered a “strict liability” offense. This means the prosecution can get a conviction if they are able to prove that the person was actually driving while under the influence, hence the DUI. This of course differs from state to state.
- For instance, Idaho and Florida doesn’t consider DUI manslaughter as a strict liability offense. In these places, the prosecution can prove the occurrence of DUI manslaughter by being able to prove that the driver was actually able to cause the victim’s death because they were driving drunk.
- On the other hand, a vehicular manslaughter charge can only be established if the prosecution has proven that there’s more than just simple negligence or carelessness on the part of the driver. This means the prosecution will have to prove that the driver has been in fact grossly negligent.
- Finally, proving that a DUI death was in fact murder will be harder for the prosecution, as they have to convince a jury or the judge that the motorist not only acted with a “conscious disregard for human life,” but other factors as well.
Proving the Mental State
When we talk of “mental state,” this can be an entirely different subject because there’s not a lot of ways we can demonstrate what a person’s mental state is at any one particular point. This means in the case of these situations, it’s the prosecutor’s role to be able to prove the mental state of the defendant has resulted in the damages as elaborated above.
- This can be tricky, as not only mental states are hard to distinguish, but finding the difference between extreme recklessness, simple negligence, and gross negligence differ from one point to the next. Some methods to do this however include:
- How the defendant appears to be driving.
- If someone has spoken to the defendant and told them they’re “too drunk to drive.”
- The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and level of impairment.
If there’s anything the items above could tell us, it’s that we need to be extremely careful with the way we approach drunk driving and always treat it as a potentially dangerous thing. If you remember these things you need to know about vehicular homicide and vehicular assault law in relation to a DUI, then perhaps you can help yourself or a friend out by reminding them of things they need to consult with a professional with should they find themselves in this situation.
Anne McGee has over 20 years of experience writing about law subjects where she hopes her knowledge can help the common reader understand law topics that may be of relevance to their daily lives. If she’s not reading a good book, then chances are Anne is jogging during her free time.