According to the NHTSA, there were over 37,000 people killed in car accidents last year. As tragic as these accidents can be, many of these accidents result in criminal charges. These charges can range from minor traffic violations to serious crimes that carry considerable prison sentences.
If you’ve been charged with vehicular homicide in the Central Ohio area, you need someone on your side. The Columbus traffic lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have the experience you need to tell your side of the story and get a fair result.
What is Vehicular Homicide?
Generally speaking, vehicular homicide is charged whenever a driver recklessly or negligently kills someone while operating a motor vehicle. In Ohio, “vehicular homicide” is often used as a generic term to encompass three different offenses:
- Vehicular Homicide;
- Aggravated Vehicular Homicide; and
- Vehicular Manslaughter.
Each of these has different levels and sentences that can vary according to the circumstances and your prior record. Additionally, it’s important to note that “vehicles” are not limited to cars and trucks, but may include things such as boats and airplanes.
Under Ohio law, you can be charged with vehicular homicide if the prosecution believes that you killed someone while driving a vehicle either negligently or while speeding in a work zone.
- Vehicular homicide is a first-degree misdemeanor when the defendant was driving negligently. If convicted, you face a potential sentence of anywhere from 15 days (the mandatory minimum) to six months in jail. In addition, there is a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license from one to five years.
- Vehicular homicide becomes a fourth-degree felony with a possible sentence of up to 18 months in prison if you were driving on a revoked or suspended license or you have a prior conviction for any other traffic-related homicide, manslaughter, or assault.
- The license suspension can also be increased if you have a prior conviction for another traffic-related homicide, manslaughter, or assault. If you are convicted, the court may impose a suspension from two to 10 years.
- If you have a prior conviction for a traffic-related murder, felonious assault, or attempted murder, the license suspension can be increased to a suspension anywhere from three years to life.
Vehicular manslaughter is when someone is alleged to have killed another person as a result of a minor misdemeanor traffic offense. For example, if you caused an accident by running a red light and someone was killed, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
- Vehicular manslaughter is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. If you are convicted, the court may suspend your license anywhere from six months to three years.
- Similar to vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter can be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor if you were driving on a revoked or suspended license or have a prior conviction for vehicular homicide or any other traffic-related homicide, manslaughter, or assault.
- If you are found guilty and have a prior conviction for a traffic-related murder, felonious assault, or attempted murder, the court may suspend your license for anywhere from one to five years.
Aggravated Vehicular Homicide
Aggravated vehicular homicide is charged when there is a vehicular homicide in any of the following circumstances:
- The defendant was operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- The defendant was driving recklessly; or
- The defendant was reckless in a construction zone.
Aggravated vehicular homicide is one of the most severe traffic-related charges you can face, and the penalties can quickly increase depending on the circumstances.
Aggravated Vehicular Homicide – Operating a Vehicle while under the Influence
This is a second-degree felony if you are found guilty of operating a vehicle while under the influence. In this situation, you face a mandatory prison term of two to eight years and your license could be suspended for life.
Aggravated vehicular homicide can be elevated to a first-degree felony and punishable by up to 11 years in prison if you were driving on a revoked or suspended license; or have a prior conviction for vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, or vehicular assault. Aggravated vehicular homicide can also be elevated to a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison if you have three or more convictions for OVI/DUI/DWI, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, involuntary manslaughter by OVI, a combination of the convictions listed, or two or more convictions for felony OVI on your record within the last six years.
Aggravated Vehicular Homicide – Reckless Driving or Reckless Operation in a Construction Zone
Aggravated vehicular homicide due to reckless driving or reckless operation in a construction zone is a third-degree felony. If convicted, you face a possible sentence of one to five years in prison, and the court can suspend your license anywhere from three years to life. The offense is elevated to a second-degree felony if you were driving on a suspended or revoked license or you have a prior conviction for vehicular homicide or other traffic-related death. If convicted, you could face up to eight years in prison and a life. If convicted of an elevated offense, you could be facing a mandatory prison sentence and a permanent suspension of your license.
How a Traffic Attorney Can Help
Whatever the charges, law enforcement often makes it sound like you’re facing an open-and-shut case. Thankfully, this is rarely the case, and particularly so with vehicular homicide charges. For example, criminal negligence isn’t always easy to distinguish from ordinary negligence. Similarly, a simple mistake can be charged as reckless driving. The potential penalties are catastrophic, and yet the basis of the charge isn’t always as clear as the prosecution claims.
Unfortunately, defending yourself without a lawyer is not easy, and the prosecution will take full advantage of your inexperience. An experienced vehicular homicide defense lawyer will challenge every element of the prosecution’s case to make sure you are treated fairly.
Contact a Columbus Ohio Vehicular Homicide Defense Lawyer
A conviction for vehicular homicide could change your life. In addition to the possible jail time and suspension of your license, a criminal conviction is a matter of public record and could damage your reputation and even hurt your ability to get a job. If you’ve been charged with vehicular homicide, you should contact a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
The attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates know the law and what it takes to secure the best possible result in your case. We provide our clients with aggressive, high-quality legal representation to ensure your rights are respected and every option is explored.