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Vehicular Manslaughter / Homicide

When there is an allegation of reckless driving that ends up causing or contributing to the death of another person, the person responsible can be charged with the criminal offense known as vehicular homicide. If a reckless driving incident occurs and the suspect flees the scene or refuses to stop and help, there are even more severe penalties.

The State Attorney’s Office in the Second Judicial Circuit for Tallahassee and Leon County relies heavily on the wishes of the victim’s family in these cases. Obtaining qualified representation in the initial stages of the case is crucial. This page will provide insight into the criminal offense of vehicular manslaughter along with its penalties and potential defenses.

Tallahassee Vehicular Homicide Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one was involved in a car crash that resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, contact an attorney at Pumphrey Law. Obtaining legal representation as soon after the accident occurred is important so that all favorable evidence can be preserved. There may be defense strategies available to fight off a criminal conviction.

The lawyers at Pumphrey Law represent clients throughout the Florida Panhandle, including those in Tallahassee, and the surrounding areas of Wakulla County, Quincy in Gadsden County, Bristol in Liberty County and Monticello in Jefferson County. Contact our office today at (850) 681-7777 or fill out an online form to schedule a free case evaluation.

Information About Vehicular Manslaughter

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Vehicular Homicide under Florida Law

Reckless driving is considered driving with wanton or willful disregard for the safety of property or another person. When reckless driving results in the death of another person, it is considered the more serious offense of vehicular homicide.

Vehicular homicide, also referred to as vehicular manslaughter, is defined under Florida Statute Section 782.071 as the killing of another person or unborn baby by an injury to the mother, caused by reckless driving of a motor vehicle. 

Vehicular homicide cases can involve allegations of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It can also occur from racing on the roadway. Additionally, these cases can involve driving at high speeds or driving the wrong way on a street or highway. The prosecutor is not required to prove the driver intended to kill or injury anyone. Instead, the penalty punishes the reckless behavior of being indifferent to the consequences.

Based on the Florida Criminal Jury Instructions, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a person of vehicular homicide:

  1. A victim of the crash is dead; and
    1. Is a person who died from the crash;
    2. Is an unborn child who died from the crash; or
    3. Is an unborn child who died by injury to the mother.
  2. The death was caused by the operation of a motor vehicle or vessel by the defendant; and
  3. The defendant operated the motor vehicle or vessel in a reckless manner likely to cause great bodily harm or the death of another person.

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Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 782.071, vehicular homicide is considered a second-degree felony offense. A conviction for a second-degree felony carries the following penalties:

  • Up to $10,000 in fines; and
  • Up to 15 years in prison.

However, there are more severe penalties for vehicular homicide in which the defendant is accused of:

  1. Knowing at the time of the accident, or should have known, that an accident occurred; and
  2. Failing to provide information or rendering aid as required by Florida Statute Section 316.062.

If both above scenarios occurred and the driver left the scene, they would then face a first-degree felony. A conviction for a first-degree felony carries the following penalties:

  • Up to $10,000 in fines; and
  • Up to 30 years in prison.

Vehicular homicide is ranked as a Level 7 offense on Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. A judge is required to sentence a defendant absent grounds for a downward departure sentence, a minimum 9 ¼ years in prison for a person convicted of vehicular homicide. Alternatively, a judge may also sentence the convicted person to the statutory maximum of 15 years in prison.

Additional Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter

According to the Florida Highway Safety Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), an additional consequence that can result from a vehicular manslaughter conviction includes losing the ability to legally drive in Florida. A defendant convicted of vehicular manslaughter would have their driver’s license revoked for a minimum of three years.

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Defenses to Vehicular Manslaughter Cases

If you are facing vehicular manslaughter charges, you may feel like there is no way out. Keep in mind that this is a serious offense that can carry harsh penalties. If convicted, you could face nearly three decades in prison. However, there may be help available to you. By consulting with a Tallahassee defense attorney, you can discuss if any of the following defenses apply to your vehicular manslaughter case:

  • The defendant lacked the intent to cause the death of another person;
  • The victim contributed to their death by acting in their own negligent or reckless manner;
  • The defendant only operated the vehicle in a reckless manner due to experiencing a medical emergency.

If your vehicular homicide case involved DUI blood testing, the prosecutor may attempt to use the blood results from the hospital as part of emergency medical treatment. Cases involving the death or serious bodily injury of another person rarely involve a urine or breath test. An experienced attorney can fight to get this evidence thrown out if it is not acquired legally.

Additionally in vehicular homicide cases, the accident report privilege codified under Florida Statute Section 316.066(4) can also play an important role. The defendant’s statements may not be admissible if the officer did not make it clear that the statements are part of a “criminal investigation” and not the “accident investigation.”

There may be other defense strategies available to use for your case. Contact the defense team at Pumphrey Law Firm to discuss your options.

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Collateral Issues in a Vehicular Homicide Case

In addition to the criminal penalties for a conviction, vehicular homicide cases can also lead to civil lawsuits for negligence, personal injury, and wrongful death against the defendant. Restitution can be ordered as part of the sentence, although the victim’s family will seek restitution from the driver or their insurance company.

Important: Pumphrey Law represents criminal cases, not civil cases. However, it is important for anyone facing a vehicular homicide charge to be aware of all resulting consequences.

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Finding A Vehicular Homicide Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee

Vehicular homicide charges can be both intimidating and complex. Depending on the surrounding facts of your case and whether you left the scene of the crash, the outcome of an alleged vehicular homicide incident can be life-altering. A criminal conviction for vehicular manslaughter can cause you to lose your driving ability, face lengthy imprisonment, and pay expensive fines.

A Tallahassee criminal attorney at Pumphrey Law can help guide you through the legal process and work to get you the best possible results in your case. Our attorneys have decades of combined experience. Call (850) 681-7777 today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Page Updated on April 9, 2024

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