According to the law, “vehicular homicide” is defined as the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another. For a vehicular homicide charge, the individual had to have been killed because the driver of the other motor vehicle was driving recklessly. For instance, if one driver was driving safely and then another driver veered out dangerously into the road against traffic and, as a result, was struck and killed by the first driver, that first driver would not be charged with vehicular homicide, for they were not driving in a reckless manner likely to cause injury and/or death.
As our criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know, vehicular homicide can either be a felony of the first degree (punishably by up to 30 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines) or a felony of the second degree, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.
The offense becomes a felony of the first-degree if, at the time of the accident, the person driving recklessly knew or should have known that the accident occurred, and the person failed to give information and render aid, as described in s. 316.062. According to that statute, someone involved in an auto accident is required to provide information such as name, driver’s license information, vehicle registration/identification number etc., to acceptable recipients such as the other driver(s), police officer(s) and/or an EMT, etc.
To avoid being charged with a first-degree felony, the driver is also required to render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance, including the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying, of the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.
If none of these can be completed, and there is nobody at the scene to whom the reckless driver can provide information, the driver is responsible for reporting the crash to the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority and provide them with the proper information in order to avoid being charged with a first-degree felony as opposed to a second-degree felony. It is important to note that the reckless driver must perform all of these duties regardless of whether or not they were aware that the accident actually caused injury and/or death.
Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that the right of action for civil damages still exists under all circumstances for all deaths described in s. 782.071, as described above. For instance, you can be charged with and prosecuted for the offense of vehicular homicide in a criminal court and be sued in a civil court by, for instance, the family of the deceased individual in a wrongful death case.
Nevertheless, in the criminal case, in addition to any other punishment as outlined above, the court can order the person to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, under the supervision of a registered nurse, an emergency room physician, or an emergency medical technical pursuant to a voluntary community service program operated by the trauma center or hospital.
Being charged with vehicular homicide is a serious matter. If you’ve been charged with the offense detailed above in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, please contact our criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert to schedule a free consultation by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to assisting you.