How Common Are Vehicular Homicide Charges After Fatal Car Accidents in Utah?
The likelihood of being charged with vehicular homicide after a fatal car accident depends upon the unique circumstances of each incident. Vehicular homicide is a serious offense in Utah and, offenders can receive lengthy prison sentences if convicted. If you or a family member was charged with vehicular homicide, you should speak with an experienced Salt Lake City vehicular homicide defense lawyer today. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson brings aggressive legal representation to every case, and he is ready to fight for you. Overson Law, PLLC is here to explain how common it is to be charged with vehicular homicide after a fatal car accident in Utah.
Utah Laws for Vehicular Manslaughter
To understand the frequency of homicide charges after a fatal car accident you need to understand Utah’s laws regarding vehicular homicide. Utah Criminal Code §76-5-207 lists the requirements for being charged with “automobile homicide.” This statute states that an offender will be charged with automobile homicide if they “operate a motor vehicle in a negligent manner” that causes the death of another person.
It is also important to note that this particular statute only applies when the defendant was driving under the influence or using a cellphone or similar technology while driving. Additionally, vehicular homicide is sometimes referred to as “vehicular manslaughter” in other states. Therefore, it is important to understand which criminal act you are being accused of and the elements necessary to convict you of that particular offense. This will help you become prepared to work with your attorney on your case.
To convict a defendant of this crime, the prosecution must also show that the defendant committed one of the following acts:
- Driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or higher or
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two.
Automobile homicide may also be charged if someone operates a vehicle with “criminal negligence” and causes the death of another person. Criminal negligence means that a person should have been aware of a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” that an ordinarily prudent person would be able to recognize. The prosecution must also prove one of the factors listed above to convict an offender for criminally negligent automobile homicide.
Under Utah law, the offender is responsible for every person that suffers “serious bodily injury” or death because of their actions. This means they will be charged with one count of vehicular homicide for every individual they kill and one count of other injury offenses for each person they injure. Additionally, the fact that it was legal for you to drink alcohol or use drugs is not a valid defense.
Chances of Being Charged with Automobile Homicide in Utah
If you caused a fatal accident in Utah, you would only be charged with automobile homicide if you acted with negligence or criminal negligence. Being guilty of negligence means that you owed a duty to other drivers and pedestrians to operate your vehicle with care, but you breached that duty. Therefore, automobile homicide offenses are only possible when a person acts with some form of negligence while driving and kills or seriously injures another person.
The government does not charge drivers with automobile homicide when the accident was not their fault or was a true accident not involving negligence. The statute also applies only to drunk or drugged drivers, so a sober driver should not be charged with automobile homicide in Utah.
Automobile homicide involving simple negligence is a third degree felony. Third degree felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of five years and up to $5,000 in fines. If you are charged with automobile homicide involving criminal negligence, you will face a second degree felony. Second degree felonies have a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and fines up to $10,000.
Utah also enforces laws against texting and driving. If you were texting and driving and killed someone, you will be charged with a separate offense for causing death while texting and driving. Like other offenses for automobile homicide, the severity of this offense depends on whether the offender acted with negligence or criminal negligence. Automobile homicide offense will also result in a license suspension for the offender.
Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorneys Will Represent You in Your Vehicular Homicide Case
If you or a family member was charged with automobile homicide, you should consult with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer. Car accidents are sudden and scary experiences. They are even more frightening if someone dies in the crash. Darwin Overson understands how vehicular homicide charges can seriously impact your life, and he is here to alleviate your concerns. Overson Law will work tirelessly to pursue the legal outcome that you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (801) 758-2287, or reach us online.