Fatal Car Accidents Due to DUI and Resulting Legal Charges

Most DUIs (driving under the influence) do not result in anything more serious than the driver being arrested and the applicable fines being levied against him by the court system. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that, on occasion, a drunk driver involved in a serious car collision will be charged with a fatality, placing him in profound legal jeopardy. 

No matter what the case, if you’re charged with a DUI that involves a fatality, you must connect with the best possible attorney in your area. Says The Law Office of Aaron M. Black, PLLC, DUI Attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, a reputable attorney will be allowed to represent you in a court of law without your presence. This allows you to go on working and earning a living. It also affords you the confidence of knowing a professional is acting on your behalf to do the heavy legal lifting. 

However, if you’ve been convicted of a DUI that involves a fatality, your presence in court might be required. But a very good lawyer who is familiar with the court system and who can navigate the complex administration procedures can successfully defend you in both jury and bench trials. At the very least, the lawyer can have your charges reduced, especially if it’s a first offense.    

That said, what kind of charges can result from a fatal car accident that’s directly related to a DUI? According to a recent report by Forbes Advisor, at base, drunk driving is a very serious matter. Sometimes, it can be deadly serious. A DUI that results in a fatality is profoundly tragic. But will it result in significant legal penalties for the driver? That’s the million-dollar question.  

Legal ramifications all depend on the circumstances of the accident, where it happened, who the prosecutor assigned to the case is, the judge, and more. In the end, it’s likely a driver who causes the death of another innocent victim or victims due to intoxication will face serious criminal charges. The penalties can vary, however, from cash fines all the way to decades in state prison.  

Vehicular Homicide Charges Due to DUI

If you cause the death of an innocent person while driving, you can be charged with vehicular homicide. In some U.S. states, you can be charged with vehicular homicide just by being intoxicated while driving and by killing someone. In legal terms, this is what’s known as a case of “DUI manslaughter.” It can be applied even if a driver drives very carefully and doesn’t break any rules of the road. 

In many states, it’s up to the prosecutor to prove vehicular homicide by demonstrating that the driver was operating his vehicle carelessly and negligently, aside from being drunk. “Ordinary negligence” or “simple negligence” can be proven by showing that a driver failed to operate his vehicle with reasonable, responsible care. 

Charges for DUI-Related Fatalities

Says Forbes Advisor, when a state does not have driving-specific fatality laws on the books, it’s likely prosecutors will bring about charges for a DUI-related killing, which can fall under a more general homicide law. But even if a state does have driving-related homicide laws on the books, a prosecutor can decide to go after more serious and significant “general homicide charges.”

Naturally, if an intoxicated driver sets out to intentionally kill another innocent person, this will result in a charge of murder, perhaps even Murder One. But even if the DUI-related killing was entirely a mistake and therefore unintentional, if the drunk driver was driving recklessly and with indifference to human life, the driver will likely be charged with very serious crimes, which can include second-degree murder. This will result in significant prison time. 

A few other charges for unintentional DUI-related fatalities can include grossly negligent homicide, negligent homicide, and involuntary manslaughter.      

Penalties for DUI-Related Fatalities

Along with varying charges for DUI-related fatalities come differing degrees of penalties. In Massachusetts, for instance, the most minor penalty for a drunk driver who causes the death of an innocent person is said to be 30 days in county jail. But in Tennessee, a sentence for killing an innocent person while driving drunk, even if you’re driving as carefully as possible, can be 60 years in state prison along with a $50,000 fine. 

Much of what goes into a legal penalty depends on several factors, including how careless the driver was or whether the driver was aware that his actions behind the wheel were creating a serious risk for both passengers and other vehicles on the road. If your BAC or Blood Alcohol Content is significantly higher than the law allows, this will also have a negative effect on the penalties levied on you by a court of law. 

In the final analysis, it’s never a good idea to drink and drive. But if you decide to get behind the wheel when drunk, and you end up killing an innocent person, chances are you will go to jail and face a significant cash penalty. The life you took just might result in your life being ruined as well.