What is Vehicular Homicide?
Vehicular homicide, also known as vehicular manslaughter, involves a death resulting from a driving accident. Specific circumstances must be present for a motor vehicle death to be considered vehicular manslaughter.
A defendant must violate New Mexico’s reckless driving laws, be fleeing from law enforcement, or be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. If any of these circumstances apply to the death, then the individual responsible could be charged with vehicular homicide.
Vehicular Homicide is More Than Drunken Driving
One of the more common reasons a person gets charged with vehicular homicide is drunk driving. However, that is certainly not the only reason. In fact, numerous instances can result in vehicular homicide, such as:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Running red lights
- Aggressive driving
- Running from law enforcement
Causation is Required
For a driver to be found guilty of vehicular homicide, there must be evidence that the driver was the legal cause of death. Just because a defendant drove recklessly, or under the influence, and a person died, the link must be established between that person’s death and the driver’s behavior. This is known as causation.
The Penalty of Vehicular Homicide
Vehicular homicide carries a variety of penalties, and these punishments depend on the circumstances. Here are some general penalties for a person convicted of vehicular homicide in New Mexico:
- When the driver is intoxicated at the time of the accident. A homicide that occurs while the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a second-degree felony. That means that the defendant could face up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $12,500. If the same defendant has a DWI in the last ten years, the prison sentence is enhanced to 19 years.
- When the driver was operating recklessly at the time of the accident. If the defendant was driving recklessly at the time of the accident, they would be charged with a third-degree felony. If convicted, the defendant would face up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 – or a combination of both.
- When the driver is fleeing from law enforcement and causes an accident. When the defendant is fleeing from law enforcement, it is also a third-degree felony. Therefore, if convicted, the defendant could be sentenced to six years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
The sentence is often less than the maximum or even the amount sentenced. Most defendants can get out of prison early, but they still will have a felony conviction on their criminal record. A felony conviction could permanently prevent a defendant from receiving a job, financial aid, or qualifying for government positions.
Consult with a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately
Vehicular homicide is a serious charge, regardless of how it came about. If you have been arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney.