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When there is an allegation of reckless driving causing or contributing to the death of another person, the criminal offense can be charged as vehicular homicide. Even harsher penalties can apply if it is alleged that the driver left the scene of the accident after the incident occurred.
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 early in the case is critical because favorable evidence may not be adequately preserved by law enforcement during the traffic homicide investigation.
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.
The lawyers at Pumphrey Law represent clients throughout the Florida Panhandle, including those in Tallahassee, and the surrounding areas such as Crawfordville in Wakulla County, Quincy in Gadsden County, Bristol in Liberty County and Monticello in Jefferson County. Call (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free case evaluation.
Vehicular homicide, also called vehicular manslaughter, is defined in Florida Statute §782.071 as the killing of a person or a fetus by an injury to the mother, caused by reckless driving of a motor vehicle. Reckless driving is considered driving with wanton or willful disregard for the safety of property or another person.
These cases usually involve an allegation of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or racing on the roadway. The facts of the case may involve driving at high speed or driving the wrong way on a one-way 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.
Generally, vehicular manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 or both, according to Florida Statutes Annotated §782.071.
The crime also can be charged as a first-degree felony if it is also alleged that at the time of the crash the driver knew, or should have known that the crash occurred, and failed to stop and give information to law enforcement or render reasonable aid to those injured in the crash.
This means if a person was in an accident which killed someone and the driver left the scene, he or she could face first-degree felony charges. This crime is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
In addition to any other punishment, the court may order the person to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, under the supervision of a registered nurse, an emergency room physician or an emergency medical technician, according to Florida law.
If you are facing vehicular manslaughter charges, you may feel like there is no way out. The charges are serious and they can carry harsh penalties. If convicted, you could face nearly three decades in prison. However, a skilled Tallahassee criminal lawyer can help establish a defense to the charges.
If a death or serious bodily injury occurs after a car accident, law enforcement officers typically will ask for a DUI blood test. In some cases, the blood is taken by force if the driver refuses. In other cases, the blood is taken without the suspect’s knowledge if the suspect is unconscious.
The prosecutor also may attempt to use blood results used by 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 evidence thrown out if it was not acquired legally.
For vehicular homicide cases, the accident report privilege also plays an important role because the suspect’s statements may not be admissible if the officer does not make it clear the statements are part of a “criminal investigation” and not the “accident investigation.”
Other important defenses apply, particularly a showing that the driver’s conduct was merely careless and not reckless. Often a fine line exists between an accident and a “vehicular homicide” charge. An attorney can help you fight for your future.
Vehicular homicide cases also can lead to civil lawsuits for negligence, personal injury and wrongful death against the suspected driver. Restitution can be ordered as part of the sentence, although the victim’s family likely will seek restitution from the driver or the driver’s insurance company in a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit.
Vehicular homicide charges can be intimidating and complex. 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. Call (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free case evaluation.
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.
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