Criminal Charges Following Fatal DWI Accidents
The dangers of driving drunk to a driver and other road users cannot be understated. When a driver who operates a vehicle while under the influence causes an accident, the other people involved in the accident can be seriously injured, and in some cases, death may occur. When a person dies from an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, the driver’s criminal liability for driving while intoxicated rises from a simple DWI charge to a more serious charge of vehicular manslaughter.
A driver may be charged vehicular manslaughter in the second degree if he or she causes the death of another person when driving while intoxicated. This is a serious charge that carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison. If more than one person dies in the accident, the charge could be elevated to vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, which is a Class C felony with a maximum of fifteen years in prison. A driver can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter in the first degree when the driver has a blood alcohol content of .18%.
Under New York law, there is a presumption that if an intoxicated driver causes an accident that results in the death of others, the accident was caused due to the driver’s intoxication. The presumption does not mean that if the prosecution can show the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident he or she is automatically found guilty. The presumption is rebuttable, and the driver can present evidence of another driver’s’ negligence in causing the accident.
If in addition to driving while intoxicated, a driver is found to have caused death by driving recklessly and while his or her blood alcohol content is .18%, the driver can be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide. This is the most serious charge that an intoxicated driver can face if he or she causes the death of others, and it is a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Reckless driving can be the basis of other manslaughter charges even without the driver’s intoxication. Therefore, if the prosecution cannot prove intoxication for the purposes of an aggravated vehicular homicide charge, the defendant might still be convicted on a charge of manslaughter if he recklessly caused the death of another person.
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A vehicular manslaughter conviction can mean years in prison. If you or a loved one has been charged with vehicular manslaughter or any other charge related to driving while intoxicated, you need an experienced DUI/DWI attorney handling your case. Contact experienced Syracuse criminal defense attorney George F. Hildebrandt for a consultation today.