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What Is the Penalty for Vehicular Manslaughter?

Ambulance at the scene of a car Accident

In Michigan, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter for causing someone’s death while operating a motor vehicle. The most common situation that results in a charge is when someone is driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OWI / DUI) and causes the death of another person. You can also be charged for reckless driving that results in the death of another person.

A conviction for vehicular manslaughter carries a penalty of 15 to 20 years in prison and fines as high as $10,000.

Punishments for a vehicular manslaughter conviction can be severe. If you are facing vehicular manslaughter charges in Michigan it is critical that hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you in court.

What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?

The crime occurs when a driver unintentionally causes an accident that results in the death of the driver’s passengers, the occupants of other cars, or pedestrians. A defendant can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if someone died because the driver was operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI / DUI), driving recklessly, or driving in an illegal manner.

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) is the most common reason to be charged with vehicular manslaughter. To prove their case, prosecutors will use eyewitness testimony, statements by the defendant, and the results of chemical tests to show the presence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances.

Negligent driving that results in someone’s death can also trigger a charge of vehicular manslaughter. Examples of negligent driving include driving at an excessive rate of speed, failing to stop at a stop sign or to heed flashing lights, driving on the wrong side of the road, or failing to brake.

Anytime an accident results in a highway death, the driver could face charges of vehicular manslaughter.

What Are the Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter cases that involve drugs or alcohol are prosecuted more aggressively and punished more severely than other accidents that result in someone else’s death.

If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter in Michigan, you face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $2,500 to $10,000. You could face up to 20 years in prison if you were driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .17% or higher and were involved in an accident that resulted in someone else’s death, or if the victim was a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency response person.

What If the Other Driver Caused the Accident?

In many cases of vehicular manslaughter, the other driver bears some responsibility for the crash. When there is shared responsibility in a civil lawsuit, courts use the theory of contributory negligence to assign blame, and may reduce a jury verdict by the driver’s share of responsibility for causing the crash. But in criminal cases, contributory negligence is rarely, if ever, applied. The result is that if someone dies as a result of a car crash that you caused, even partially, you could be facing charges.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me if I’ve Been Charged?

Charges of vehicular manslaughter are serious, and you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.

A criminal defense attorney can help by seeking to have certain evidence excluded from consideration by the jury. For example, your lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence of your BAC level because of a violation of your constitutional rights, because the Breathalyzer machine was not properly calibrated, or because the police officer did not properly administer the test. If this evidence is excluded from consideration by the jury, they are much less likely to return a Guilty verdict on a charge of vehicular manslaughter.

Likewise, if your lawyer can show that the accident was caused by something other than your negligence or intoxication, the jury may acquit you of the charges.

Your lawyer may also be able to show that your reckless driving was the result of a medical condition, not the use of drugs or alcohol.

Criminal defense attorneys often work with accident reconstruction experts to analyze the cause of a crash. An accident reconstruction expert can inspect the scene of the collision for evidence of tire tracks and skid marks, review eyewitness testimony, and examine the vehicles that were involved to determine the cause of the accident. If the accident reconstruction expert can show that you were not responsible for causing the crash, your lawyer may be able to have your case dismissed, the charges against you reduced, or to argue to the jury that you should not be convicted.

Elmen Legal. Your Defense Against Michigan Charges of Vehicular Manslaughter

As a criminal defense attorney, I know that a charge of vehicular manslaughter is scary. But I’m here to help by fighting hard to protect your rights. I take pride in taking care of my clients as a whole person, not just as a case. If you are facing charges of vehicular manslaughter, I will advise you on the potential consequences of decisions you make about your case, work to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed, and will fight for a Not Guilty verdict at trial.

Learn more about Elmen Legal by reading answers to Frequently Asked Questions and reviews from other people I’ve helped. Then contact Elmen Legal today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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Admitted to practice law in 2014, Ann Arbor criminal defense attorney Robert Elmen defends people accused of crimes such as assault and battery, domestic violence, sex crimes, drug crimes, and drunk driving / OWI / DUI. His caring approach towards his clients sets him apart from other lawyers as he recognizes that people come to him during their darkest hours, looking for help, and for hope. Robert is a student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and draws on his martial arts training to help himself and his clients remain calm in the face of what may seem like insurmountable odds.

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