Did you know that alcohol is a leading cause of vehicular deaths in the United States? The numbers tell a sobering tale of unnecessary deaths due to irresponsible drinking and driving. More than 10,000 people lose their lives every year due to drunk driving, and the numbers aren’t going down.
What does driving under the influence or DUI mean? What happens if a DUI results in the death of another person?
What charges does a person guilty of DUI resulting in death get? What are a person’s possible defenses in this situation?
This article examines the charge of driving under the influence (DUI) and explores the possible penalties when it results in the death of another person.
This write-up will show the charges one might get for a DUI resulting in a death case. You’ll have a chance to examine the other side of the coin and see what kind of defense a person convicted of DUI can use to avoid stringent punishment.
A DUI resulting in another person’s death can lead to jail time, even before a trial. Events can happen fast in this kind of vehicular event, and people can go straight to jail and not be able to inform their families immediately.
Locate your incarcerated loved ones easily using LookUpInmate.org, a vast database of correctional facilities in the United States. It’ll help you pinpoint the location of your loved one, who may have been detained after a DUI incident resulting in another person’s death.
LookUpInmate.org offers services like inmate search, criminal records search, and even detailed information on the different facilities in the country.
DUI Resulting in Death: Charges, Penalties, and More
Driving requires all your senses to work together to avoid mishaps or crashes. Driving while intoxicated with alcohol is a recipe for disaster.
Alcohol intake while driving can severely impact alertness. Drinking and then driving can lead to road crashes that can cause the death of the driver or another person.
Once this kind of mishap happens, it’s now a DUI case resulting in death. DUIs resulting in death involve charges, hefty penalties, and prison time.
What Is DUI Manslaughter?
A DUI resulting in the death of another person is a crime. Penalties for this kind of crime may differ depending on state laws.
In states like California, if the offender has no prior DUI convictions on their record, they can face DUI manslaughter charges. However, if the person is a repeat offender, the charge will be DUI murder.
The DUI charge can also be aggravated by negligence, which has two types according to U.S. law.
This type of negligence happens when someone is not watching the road or paying attention while driving. Often this kind of negligence leads to an accident and, in some cases, the death of another person.
According to U.S. law, gross negligence is when a person consciously and willfully disregards ordinary standards of care, affecting the life or property of another person. An example is daring to close their eyes for 10 seconds while driving in a busy intersection.
Closing one’s eyes doesn’t make them a murderer. However, voluntary disregard for passenger safety isn’t just carelessness. It’s gross negligence.
The charge will be a harsher punishment if gross negligence results in the victim’s death.
Is DUI Manslaughter a Serious Criminal Offense Under U.S. Law?
DUI manslaughter is a serious crime, though not as severe as murder. According to U.S. law, murder is the willful and intentional killing of another individual. Manslaughter doesn’t involve intentional killing, making it less grave than murder.
In a DUI, it might be challenging to establish if someone intentionally killed someone. However, the government can prove whether a person is intoxicated by measuring blood alcohol content (BAC) and other methods.
A Conviction for Driving Under the Influence
In a DUI case, a person can be at risk of getting charged if proven to be intoxicated with substances that resulted in impaired driving.
DUI Murder or “Watson” Murder
Drivers could be charged with murder if the accident was caused by reckless driving with extreme indifference to the value of human life.
In California, another name for DUI murder is “Watson” murder, a second-degree murder charge usually given to people guilty of killing a person due to intoxicated driving.
Types of DUI Manslaughter Charges in U.S.
There’s more than one type of DUI manslaughter in the United States, but those charges hinge on two penal codes based on gross negligence and ordinary negligence. Each state has its rulings regarding DUI manslaughter, which makes it crucial to be wary of local regulations in your area.
Penal Code 191.5(A) or Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
In California, gross vehicular manslaughter means a total disregard for safety and being fully aware that such reckless driving can result in an accident. Gross manslaughter is a felony.
Penal Code 191.5(B) tor Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated – Ordinary Negligence
Accidents due to ordinary negligence can be treated as a lesser crime than gross vehicular manslaughter. However, the cause of the accident is still alcohol and the intoxication it brought to a person while driving.
Other Kinds of Vehicular Manslaughter in the U.S.
There are different kinds of vehicular manslaughter in the United States. For example, someone with a blood alcohol level far over the legal limit for driving can be charged with DUI manslaughter.
It’s illegal for you to drive with a BAC of:
- 0.08% or higher if you’re over 21 years old
- 0.01% or higher if you’re under 21 years old
- 0.01% or higher if you’re on a DUI probation
- 0.04% or higher if you’re driving a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license
- 0.04% or higher if you’re driving a passenger for hire
What Are the Collateral Consequences of a DUI Manslaughter Conviction in the U.S.?
A DUI manslaughter can cause collateral consequences. The following are examples of these consequences based on Florida laws:
- For immigrants, it’s a reassessment of one’s eligibility for continued lawful residence in the United States
- A suspension or revocation of one’s driving license
- The suspect’s vehicle getting impounded
A DUI Accident Involving Injury
When an accident due to DUI causes injuries, the penalties increase drastically based on the severity of the victim’s injuries. The driver guilty of DUI can be fined up to $5,000 and imprisoned for up to five years.
However, if after the accident and after some time, the victim, despite being given treatment, dies, the charge will become DUI manslaughter.
What Happens When a DUI Results in Someone’s Death?
When a DUI accident results in someone’s death, the person driving under the influence can be charged with criminal charges like DUI murder, vehicular manslaughter, and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
A Conviction in the U.S. for Driving Under the Influence
DUI cases that lead to the death of someone will most probably result in prison sentences, especially for gross manslaughter. Also, aside from the potential jail time are hefty fines that depend on the judge’s decision and the total damages incurred during the accident or crash.
Possible Charges for DUI Resulting in Death
Prosecutors who handle cases of this nature have the discretion on what charges to file for a DUI resulting in death. Here are standard charges filed for this kind of felony.
Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Manslaughter
The prosecutor can file this charge for DUI manslaughter, but they must provide proof that the driver was acting carelessly.
For example, in New York, second-degree DUI manslaughter charges can be filed if a person’s BAC is below 0.18%. However, a first-degree DUI manslaughter charge can be filed if a person’s BAC is above 0.18%.
General Charges for DUI-Related Killings
General charges for DUI-related death may depend on the state and its laws regarding DUI policies. Typically, fines and prison time are given to people guilty of DUI manslaughter.
DUI Death Enhancements
Some states have specified severe penalties for DUI offenses that result in deaths. A DUI that doesn’t involve death may get a misdemeanor charge carrying jail time of up to 93 days with a maximum $500 fine.
However, when the DUI case results in death, prison time can go up to 15 years, with fines from $2,500 to $10,000.
Manslaughter and Murder
The penalties for DUI manslaughter or DUI murder are severe and may vary in each state. Despite states having different laws about DUI-related deaths, a driver killing a person usually gets convicted of a general crime like a second-degree murder charge.
Penalties for DUI Resulting in Death
The U.S. Constitution is the bedrock of American society. Embedded in this set of laws is the basic right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of one’s happiness.
The unlawful deprivation of life is an offense that typically results in penalties and punishments provided by federal and state laws. Below are penalties that one might receive for a DUI resulting in the death of another person.
Incarceration for DUI Manslaughter Charges in the U.S.
An accidental killing of a person can fall into involuntary manslaughter. DUIs, are often involuntary as most don’t have the malice or premeditation to commit murder.
Under federal law, if you’re guilty of involuntary manslaughter, you will be fined under this charge or imprisoned for up to eight years, or both.
Prison time varies in every state. In California, a person charged with DUI manslaughter can face the following:
- Jail time of up to one year for a misdemeanor PC 191.5(b) conviction
- Prison time of up to four years for a felony PC 191.5(b) conviction
- Prison time of up to 10 years for a PC 191.5(a) conviction
DUI Vehicular Manslaughter (Misdemeanor)
In California, PC 191.5 (b) states that violating this penal code is a “wobbler.” “Wobbler” means that the prosecutor can file charges as either a serious felony or a misdemeanor. The punishment for a misdemeanor is serving time in jail for up to one year.
DUI Vehicular Manslaughter (Felony Version)
PC 191.5 (a) states that gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony offense. Anyone convicted will face penalties of prison time from four to ten years in state prison. Aside from prison time, a convicted individual will also face fines of up to $10,000 with formal felony probation.
What to Do if You’re Charged With DUI Killing
When faced with legal problems like DUIs, hiring a DUI attorney or law firm specializing in legal advice for driving-related offenses is best. For felony charges, you’ll need a criminal defense attorney with experience to help you go through the complex process of a trial.
Penalties for DUI killing or manslaughter usually vary from state to state. For example, in Tennessee, which has one of the highest minimum penalties for DUI manslaughter, the least you can get is a $25,000 penalty on top of an 8-year prison sentence if convicted.
On the other hand, in states like California, a gross DUI manslaughter conviction can get a minimum sentence is four years.
Prosecutions for DUI Manslaughter Under U.S. Law
When you get into a situation where you’re DUI, and you accidentally kill another person, it’s DUI manslaughter, and it’s a crime in all 50 states. Though it’s less serious than actual murder, it can still send you to jail and a hefty fine.
If you’re caught in this kind of situation, you should immediately call your attorney to help you go through this event. You can serve years on end if you get convicted in every state.
How Many Years Do You Get for DUI Manslaughter?
The prison time one gets for DUI manslaughter depends on the state and the surrounding circumstances of the case. In Florida, for example, the mandatory minimum for a convicted DUI manslaughter is four years.
Ask a DUI Lawyer: How Many Years Do You Get for DUI Manslaughter?
In most states, the maximum prison time for DUI manslaughter is ten years. Defense lawyers can offer ways to build your defense to reduce prison time.
For a more comprehensive look into the different prison terms for DUI manslaughter, here is a list of prison time for each state.
|Alabama: 1 to 10 years||Montana: 0 to 30 years|
|Alaska: 1 to 99 years||Nebraska: 1 to 50 years|
|Arizona: 7 to 21 years||Nevada: 2 to 25 years|
|Arkansas: 5 to 20 years||New Hampshire: 0 to 15 years|
|California: 0 to 10 years||New Jersey: 5 to 10 years|
|Colorado: 0 to 24 years||New Mexico: 0 to 6 years|
|Connecticut: 1 to 10 years||New York: 0 to 15 years|
|Delaware: 1 to 5 years||North Carolina: 15 to 480 months|
|DC: 0 to 30 years||North Dakota: 0 to 10 years|
|Florida: 0 to 15 years||Ohio: 1 to 15 years|
|Georgia: 0 to 15 years||Oklahoma: 0 to 1 year|
|Hawaii: 0 to 10 years||Oregon: 0 to 20 years|
|Idaho: 0 to 15 years||Pennsylvania: 0 to 10 years|
|Illinois: 1 to 28 years||Rhode Island: 5 to 20 years|
|Indiana: 2 to 20 years||South Carolina: 1 to 25 years|
|Iowa: 1 to 25 years||South Dakota: 0 to 15 years|
|Kansas: 0 to 172 months||Tennessee: 8 to 60 years|
|Kentucky: 0 to 10 years||Texas: 2 to 20 years|
|Louisiana: 3 to 30 years||Utah: 0 to 15 years|
|Maine: 6 months to 10 years||Vermont: 1 to 15 years|
|Maryland: 0 to 5 years||Virginia: 1 to 20 years|
|Massachusetts: 30 days to 15 years||Washington: 31 to 177 months|
|Michigan: 0 to 20 years||West Virginia: 90 days to 10 years|
|Minnesota: 0 to 10 years||Wisconsin: 0 to 40 years|
|Mississippi: 5 to 25 years||Wyoming: 0 to 20 years|
|Missouri: 0 to 15 years|
Note that the time listed is approximate. An offender could be found guilty of other crimes that could add to the sentence.
What’s the Average Sentence for DUI Manslaughter?
According to policies per state, the average sentence for DUI manslaughter is ten years. However, it can climb up to a lifer if the driver is guilty of gross negligence while driving under the influence.
Defenses for DUI Manslaughter Charges in U.S.
Before you build up a defense against a possible DUI conviction, you should consult a lawyer or a DUI attorney that’s an expert in this field.
States have differing laws, and some defenses might work in one state but not in another. So, you should always consult your lawyer.
The following is an example of common defenses against a DUI manslaughter charge in the city of Los Angeles:
- Providing evidence that you were not impaired during the time of the accident
- Providing proof that you’re not the one who caused the collision
- Providing proof that your actions didn’t lead to another person’s death
You can consult your attorney to build up a DUI defense. You’ll need need to be open with your legal team so that they can work out a defense against a DUI charge. An attorney-client relationship is needed during this kind of situation.
In-Court Defense Strategies for DUI Manslaughter Cases in U.S.
Lawyers have strategies they can use in court as part of the defense against a DUI manslaughter case.
Here are examples of these defense techniques used for DUI cases in Florida:
- Move to suppress blood samples taken from the accused because there was no authority to obtain the sample
- Move to suppress any interaction between the defendant and the authorities because of lack of evidence to detain the accused
- File a motion to suppress statements made by the defendant to the police without the presence of an attorney
- Look into possible violation of the Miranda warnings
Consulting an experienced DUI lawyer can help you understand if these tips apply in your state.
Trial Defenses for U.S. DUI Manslaughter Accusations
A trial is a dynamic examination of evidence and witnesses before a judge. Defense lawyers employ defenses for defendants accused of DUI manslaughter.
Here is an example of a trial defense that you can use if you’re living in Florida:
- Attacking the evidence through reasonable doubt by poking holes in weak evidence to establish reasonable doubt
- Attacking the validity of scientific testing by demonstrating the unreliability of breath tests and other sobriety tests done on the field
- Attacking the theory of causation by shifting the cause of the accident from the defendant to the victim
Still, it’s best to immediately contact a lawyer experienced in DUI cases to help you build up your case against a possible conviction.
What if You Have a Solid Defense for Your DUI Manslaughter Charges?
Once you have a solid defense for your DUI manslaughter charges, your legal team can request a dismissal, an acquittal, or a lowering of fines and penalties.
Talk to an Attorney
DUI offenses, mainly when resulting in death is, a serious matter. You should always contact an experienced lawyer to learn about DUI laws and be guided through the subsequent phases of the legal process. Always seek legal advice before sharing statements or answering questions to avoid problems.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can a drunk driver be charged with murder?
Penalties vary depending on the state where the incident took place.
If the altercation happened in California, a drunk driver could be charged with DUI murder when the defendant has a prior DUI conviction. DUI murder is a second-degree murder called “Watson” murder.
2. How long can you go to jail for drunk driving and killing someone?
The average incarceration rate for defendants charged with DUI resulting in murder is ten years. However, there may be surrounding circumstances that may increase or decrease the sentence term.
3. What is the sentence for DUI manslaughter?
Sentences and penalties for DUI manslaughter vary in different states.
For example, in Florida, the defendant may face a minimum of four years in prison, depending on the circumstances.
Convicted defendants may serve up to 15 years probation, have their vehicle impounded, and be asked to do community service. They can also be obligated to attend DUI substance abuse courses, submit to psychosocial evaluation, and receive substance abuse treatment.
4. Can I get a hardship after a DUI manslaughter court-ordered permanent revocation?
States can have different requirements to get this type of limited permit to drive.
In Alabama, acquiring a hardship driver’s license depends on the court’s decision on whether you’ve completed the requirements provided by law to acquire a limited vehicle permit.
5. What is the minimum sentence for DUI manslaughter in the U.S.?
State laws may vary, but in Florida, the mandatory minimum sentence for manslaughter is four years. Fines and other penalties may apply as ordered by the court.
1. CALIFORNIA DRIVER’S HANDBOOK
2. DUI Resulting In Death: Charges, Penalties & More
3. 18 U.S. Code § 1112 – Manslaughter
4. Hardship Driver License Frequently Asked Questions
5. Penalties for Drunk Driving Vehicular Homicide