If you’ve been charged with vehicular manslaughter, your first instinct might be to hire the best criminal defense lawyers in your area, but this may not be the only step you need to take. It’s important to understand what exactly constitutes vehicular manslaughter and how you can defend yourself against these charges. Learn more about its penalties in Florida and the steps you can take to build your defense and protect your rights throughout the process.
What is Vehicular Manslaughter?
It is when someone kills another person with a vehicle. In order for vehicular manslaughter to be considered, you need to have committed an act of driving or operating an automobile or watercraft (vessel) that led to the death or great bodily harm of one or more people. Vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide laws cover the death of passengers, pedestrians, motorists, other drivers, and even an unborn child if a pregnant person is hurt or killed in a car accident.
What Are the Different Types of Accidents Involving Vehicles?
There are three main types of vehicular accidents: DUI accidents, hit-and-run accidents, and street racing accidents.
DUI accidents are when a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and gets into an accident. The criminal charges for this type of accident can be very severe, including jail time, loss of driving privileges, and large fines. A DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida law. (Read section 316.193)
Hit-and-run accidents are when a driver leaves the scene of an accident without providing any information to the other party involved. This is a crime in most states and can result in jail time, loss of driving privileges, and large fines.
If you’ve been hit by someone who fled from their vehicle after hitting you, there are some things you should consider doing at once so that your rights are protected. First, make sure you get medical attention and document all injuries. Next, report the incident to the police and provide them with detailed information about what happened. Finally, find out if you have grounds for a civil suit against the person who ran away from the scene of your accident.
Street Racing Accidents
Street racing accidents are when two or more drivers race each other on public roads. The penalties for street racing accidents can be as severe as those for DUI accidents, and can also include jail time, loss of driving privileges, and large fines. Vehicular homicide sentences and manslaughter cases are both felonies in the state of Florida, meaning they come with strict punishment guidelines set forth by the legislature.
Vehicular Homicide Charges vs. Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
The difference between vehicular homicide cases and vehicular manslaughter charges is whether or not the intent was present during the commission of the crime. Vehicular homicide sentences occur when the intent was present during the commission of a crime, while manslaughter cases occur when no intent was present when the accident occurred. Culpable negligence constitutes an offense of manslaughter.
What Is Negligence?
The civil standard of negligence in Florida determines the outcome of the case. Civil negligence is a failure to use reasonable care that results in harm to another person. In order for negligence to be proven, four elements must be present: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. The injured party or his/her survivors will then have to prove the elements of negligence against the negligent party. If all four are met, then liability can be established on behalf of the negligent party; otherwise, there would not be any liability.
How Can I Tell If I Was Negligent?
The first step is to look at the circumstances of the accident. If you were driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then you will likely be found negligent. Other factors that can contribute to negligence include speeding, running red lights, and texting while driving.
An important thing to remember is that even if you weren’t at fault, you can still be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Negligence must only be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; it does not need to be premeditated or intentional. Even if you did everything right and an accident still occurred, you can still be found negligent. This rule is called contributory negligence.
For example, say that someone ran a red light and hit your car. If they were clearly at fault, but you failed to wear your seatbelt and got thrown from the vehicle during the collision, you could be found guilty of vehicular homicide for failing to wear a seatbelt. Or if someone was drag racing down the highway and hit your motor vehicle, their reckless behavior might prove that they are guilty of vehicular manslaughter rather than just simple negligence. Vehicular homicide sentence ranges from 3 years in prison up to 20 years depending on the severity of injuries or death involved.
Florida law says a person is guilty of reckless driving when they drive with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of property or people. They must also be able to prove you were intentionally driving recklessly.
What Are My Options if I’ve Been Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter?
If you’ve been charged with vehicular manslaughter, you may be wondering what your options are. We recommend gathering all of the information you have before seeing a lawyer.
You need to prove that you were not acting with gross negligence with exculpatory evidence and that your driving did not cause death. This becomes even more layered if DUI charges are also involved.
A vehicular manslaughter conviction can have massive consequences. If you believe you’re being wrongly charged, your best bet is to talk to a vehicular manslaughter defense lawyer about your case. At Denmon Pearlman, we offer free case evaluations in the Tampa, Saint Petersburg, and New Port Richey neighborhoods.
Penalties and Maximum Sentence if Convicted of Vehicular Homicide
In Florida, vehicular manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Vehicular homicide, on the other hand, is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter, depending on your criminal history, you could be looking at fines ranging from $1,000 up to $10,000. A sentence of home detention or probation is also a possibility, along with community service and other alternatives to jail time.
If you are under 18 years old, the penalties are different than if you are 18 years old and older. If you are 16 years old or younger, your license could be suspended for a year. If you are 17-18 years old, your license can be suspended for 6 months.
For adults over 18 years old who have never had their license before, the suspension will last for 1 year. Those who already had their license at the time of committing vehicular manslaughter will get a suspension lasting 3 months to 1 year.
Courts sometimes also order that guilty parties volunteer in a hospital or trauma center. The trauma center regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, and you’d work with a registered nurse if sentenced.
When To Call a Lawyer
The best way to defend yourself against a vehicular manslaughter charge is by contacting an experienced attorney. It can be difficult to know how your sentence will be determined without consulting with a lawyer first. A lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduced sentence or get your charges dropped altogether, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Legal representation is important since your lawyer will know more about sentencing guidelines specific to your case; this is where a free consultation comes in handy. A lawyer can also advise you to hire the most qualified expert witnesses that you can, including accident reconstruction technicians. Your lawyer can also help you prove you were not at fault based on evidence collected by law enforcement officers, such as drug tests.
Where Can I Find an Attorney?
At Denmon Pearlman, our car accident attorneys handle everything from property damage to pain and suffering. We service the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and New Port Richey areas. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident or lost a loved one in a vehicular homicide case, give us a call for a free case evaluation.
What is the minimum sentence for vehicular manslaughter in FL?
The minimum sentence for vehicular manslaughter in FL is nine years and three months in prison. This is because vehicular homicide is considered a Level 7 offense.
What does gross vehicular manslaughter mean?
Gross vehicular manslaughter means that another person died as a result of your driving with gross negligence. It can be used in cases where a motorist kills someone while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, while they were distracted by their phone, or if they were speeding recklessly.
What’s the difference between vehicular manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter are both categorized as felonies. Gross vehicular manslaughter carries stiffer penalties than regular vehicular manslaughter. The difference is if the motorist was negligent or not. Ordinary negligence means you were simply not paying attention to the road and made a careless mistake. Gross negligent driving covers things like DUIs and faces harsher sentences.