If you have been involved in a fatal accident, there is a chance you may be charged with vehicular homicide (killing someone with a car). This is one of the most serious charges you can face after an accident. Here are some of the key things you should know about this criminal charge:
Intent Is Not Required
If you are facing a vehicular homicide accusations, the defense of "but I didn't intend to do it" won't help you. This is because vehicular homicide is not an intent crime; your intentions don't matter. Therefore, even if you knocked a pedestrian because you were looking at your phone's screen and not because you hated their guts, you can still be convicted for it. The issue of intent only comes to mind if you are accused of murder.
The Exact Laws Vary By State
You cannot and should not rely on the laws of another state when researching your defenses because they vary by state. For example, there are states where you can be convicted of vehicular homicide just because your actions were not what an ordinary person would have taken under the circumstances (ordinary negligence). There are also states where you can only be convicted of vehicular manslaughter for a criminal action (such as driving under the influence of alcohol) or gross negligence (such as driving at 90 mph in a school zone).
Violation of Important Rules May Trigger It
You should also know that most jurisdictions will charge you with vehicular manslaughter if you violated an important road safety rule, and the violation ended up killing another person. An example is if you drive through the traffic light and crashes a pedestrian. In such cases, the prosecution may just have to prove the violation to convict you of the crime.
The Defendant Doesn't Have To Be the Driver
Car drivers are the ones who usually face vehicular manslaughter charges because drivers are the ones who are in control of their vehicles. However, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter even if you were not driving at the time of the accident, what matters is that you caused a car accident and someone died as a result of your actions. Therefore, if a passenger grabs the steering wheel and caused a car accident, they can face vehicular manslaughter charges. There is at least one case in which a pedestrian was charged with vehicular manslaughter.
The penalties for losing a vehicular homicide charge are dire. This is one of the cases you should not handle without the involvement of a criminal defense lawyer.