A New York City Vehicular Manslaughter Lawyer Discusses Vehicle and Traffic Law Crimes
Car accidents are one of the most common causes of death. Since the vast majority of car accidents are unintentional, they are mostly dealt with in civil court. However, if a person operates a vehicle recklessly, he can be subject to criminal charges. One of the most serious criminal charges that can result from a car accident is vehicular manslaughter, which occurs when a person dies from a car accident. If you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter following a car accident, contact New York City vehicular manslaughter lawyer Cody Warner for help.
What Is Vehicular Manslaughter in New York?
Vehicular manslaughter is a type of unintentional homicide where the accused killed someone with their vehicle. Many people who are charged with vehicular manslaughter are shocked because they did not intend to cause an accident or injury to another person, let alone cause a fatal injury. Nonetheless, you can find yourself charged with this very serious offense even though you had no criminal intent whatsoever.
Vehicular manslaughter is charged when the driver who causes a fatal accident was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, contact a New York City vehicular manslaughter lawyer so that you can make sure your rights are protected and that you develop a strategic defense.
Types of Vehicular Manslaughter Charges in New York
There are two degrees of vehicular manslaughter charges in New York, both of which are felonies. In certain situations, you can also be charged with Aggravated Vehicular Homicide (P.L. 125.14), which carries heightened penalties.
Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree
Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a class D felony, is defined by P.L. 125.15 as causing the death of another person in the following situations:
- You were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08 or higher;
- You were driving a vehicle with flammable or otherwise hazardous materials while intoxicated and the death of the other person was caused by the hazardous materials; or
- You were driving a snowmobile or ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree
Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree is a class C felony and is a more expansive offense than Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree. Under P.L. 125.13, you can be charged with Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree in the following situations:
- Your BAC was .18 or higher;
- Your driving privileges were suspended in another state due to a DWI conviction or because you refused chemical testing to determine whether you were intoxicated;
- You have a DWI conviction in New York or another state within the last 10 years;
- You caused the death of more than one person;
- You have a prior conviction for vehicular manslaughter; or
- You had a child of less than 15 in the car with you who was killed.
New York Vehicular Manslaughter Penalties
Both degrees of vehicular manslaughter charges are felonies, and you face lengthy prison sentences if convicted. For both crimes, if you have been convicted of a felony within the last ten years, you will face a more severe sentencing range. In addition, your driver’s license will be suspended or revoked.
- Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree: Up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree: Up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
You may also be subjected to probation and other individualized consequences, such as paying restitution or attending a victim-impact panel. And, of course, you will have a felony conviction on your permanent record. Your conviction could limit your educational and employment opportunities and your ability to find a place to live. An experienced vehicular manslaughter attorney can help you get a fair result and protect your future.
Defenses Your New York City Vehicular Manslaughter Attorney Can Present
To be convicted of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the prosecution must prove that your intoxication caused the other person’s death. While this may seem obvious in your case, it can be more challenging to prove than you might suspect. For example, the other driver’s negligence may have had more to do with their death than your intoxication. Therefore, the fact alone that you were intoxicated is not sufficient to convict you of manslaughter. A New York City vehicular manslaughter lawyer will be able to determine whether the prosecution’s evidence is enough to support the charge.
In addition, your lawyer can challenge whatever evidence the prosecution may have regarding your alleged intoxication. For example, your lawyer can challenge:
- The breathalyzer or blood test results by demonstrating that the testing was not properly performed
- The other evidence of your intoxication, such as the observations of police or other witnesses
If the prosecution cannot prove that you were intoxicated, you cannot be convicted of vehicular manslaughter.
Other Forms of Vehicular Manslaughter
Even if you were not intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle that crashed and caused the death of another, a savvy prosecutor may attempt to charge you with regular manslaughter for operating a motor vehicle that was involved in a crash that resulted in the death of another person. With more basic forms of manslaughter, you can be convicted even if you were not intoxicated, so long as the prosecution can prove that you acted with a certain degree of recklessness.
Manslaughter in the Second Degree
Manslaughter in the Second Degree (P.L. 125.15) occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of another person. As a class C felony, if convicted, you could face up to 15 years in prison or even more if you have a felony conviction within the last decade.
To prove that you recklessly caused the death of another person, the prosecution will need to establish that you acted recklessly with respect to a result or to a circumstance when you were aware of, and consciously disregarded, a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result would occur or that such circumstance existed.
For instance, if you were speeding down a city street and knowingly sped through a red light, causing the death of a person, then the prosecution may be able to prove that you committed Manslaughter in the Second Degree.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Criminally Negligent Homicide (P.L. 125.10) occurs when, with criminal negligence, you cause the death of another person. As a class E felony, you face a potential sentence of four years in prison if convicted, and your sentencing range will be worse if you have been convicted of a felony within the last decade.
To prove that you acted with criminal negligence, the prosecution must establish that you failed to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a certain result–in this case, death–would occur.
For example, if you were operating a self-driving vehicle that was not fully autonomous and you decided to sit in the back seat and not have your hands on the steering wheel, the prosecution may successfully argue that you failed to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would occur if your vehicle disengaged from self-driving mode and then caused an accident that resulted in the death of another person. In that event, you could be charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide.
Contact New York City Vehicular Manslaughter Lawyer Cody Warner for Help
If you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter in any form, you may have successful defenses available. Call or email New York City vehicular manslaughter lawyer Cody Warner to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and determine the best path forward.