What Happens When a DUI Results in Someone’s Death?
When someone dies as a result of drunk driving, it is no longer just a DUI case; it is now a vehicular homicide. Not only will the driver be charged with a DUI (a misdemeanor), but now they face vehicular murder (a felony) and possibly other charges such as reckless driving.
If you were arrested for drunk driving and you caused an accident, it does not matter if this was your first DUI, you are now looking at years in prison, heavy fines, and a serious life change. Now is not the time to take chances; instead, you need to contact a defense attorney immediately.
More Than Just a Felony DUI
Your case is automatically upgraded to a felony DUI because of that person’s death, but that is not the only criminal charge you face now. Prosecutors like to make examples of those who cause fatal accidents while under the influence, and they will try to use your case as a warning to others so that they do not commit the same act.
On top of the felony DUI, you could also face:
- Reckless Driving – A DUI is reckless, and you may have caused property damage in the accident, injured other parties, and also caused death. Therefore, do not be surprised if the prosecutor adds reckless driving to your list of charges.
- Vehicular Homicide – You may not have intended to kill someone, but you did. Therefore, you have committed homicide, and because it was part of a vehicle accident, it is vehicular homicide.
- Aggravated DUI – You may also be charged with an aggravated DUI for any bodily harm caused to other people involved in that accident.
- Destruction of Property – Any private or business-owned property damaged as part of your DUI accident could be used to charge you with the destruction of that property – adding more years to your sentence if convicted.
- (Situational) Driving on a Suspended License – If your driver’s license was already suspended for a previous DUI, and you were driving on that suspended or revoked driver’s license at the time of the accident, you could also face charges for driving on a suspended license.
- (Situational) Multiple DUI Offenses – If you have a history of DUI convictions, you will face the subsequent charges listed in the statute based on how many DUIs you have already been convicted of. For example, if this is your fourth DUI, it not only suspends your driver’s license for life, but also includes 18-month imprisonment on top of the sentencing for other charges.
Civil Penalties Are Likely to Ensue
Regardless of how your criminal case turns out and which charges the prosecutor files against you, you will most likely face civil penalties. Known as a wrongful death case, you will be charged with the financial costs that stem from taking away someone’s loved one. The compensation typically comes from your auto insurance, but once that has exhausted the maximum payout, the court may use your personal assets to pay any remaining balance. Just some of the compensation you may have to pay surviving family members include:
- Medical costs associated with the accident and up to their loved one’s death.
- Funeral and burial costs associated with death.
- Loss of compensation and income that an individual would have provided for his or her family before the accident.
- Physical, emotional, and mental suffering by family members and the victim up to their death.
What Penalties Could You Face?
As stated already, you are not just looking at vehicular homicide or a DUI anymore. Instead, the state will assign a slew of charges to try and increase your penalty and the time you spend in prison. The chances of serving under one year in jail are unlikely if convicted, and you will become a felon.
The homicide alone is a second-degree felony, which means you could face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $12,500 just for that event. On top of that, if the judge or jury finds you guilty of the other offenses, then you will serve those sentences alongside or on top of the homicide – depending on how the judge decides to sentence you at your sentencing hearing.
Now Is the Time to Speak with a Defense Attorney
Even if this is your first DUI, you are facing severe penalties that will impact you for the rest of your life. Not only are you looking at up to 15 years imprisonment for the death, but you will have numerous criminal charges, a permanent criminal record, and you will be branded as a felon. Even after you serve your sentence, things will never be the same.
Just some of the long-term consequences include:
- The inability to get a job or stay in the same field. If you held any special licenses, or your work required background checks, it is unlikely you will return to a similar source of employment after serving your sentence. For example, if you were a teacher, you will be unable to return to the classroom. If you have a professional license, such as for plumbing or another similar specialty, you may be unable to renew that license as well due to your felony status.
- The stigma of being a felon. Your friends, family, and other acquaintances will never treat you the same. You will face the stigma of being a felon everywhere you go, and you may find that even close friends and relatives drift away.
- The restrictions for housing and government assistance. You will find it hard to qualify for most rental properties, and you will be prohibited from seeking money through government assistance programs outside of those meant for post-imprisonment rehabilitation.
- You lose your right to own a firearm. You will no longer be able to purchase, carry, register, or own any type of firearm.
The long-term consequences of being convicted of vehicular homicide are severe, and you need criminal representation immediately. Contact the team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today to explore your options. Even if it looks as though you have none, our team has represented individuals facing charges just like yours, and we can help you find the best outcome possible.
Schedule a free case evaluation by calling our office or contact us online with your questions.