Unfortunately, drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are killed in traffic accidents every day. Often circumstances in which nobody was at fault (bad weather, blown-out tires, etc.) are the cause of fatal accidents. However, if it can be shown that a traffic death was caused by the negligence of a particular driver, the operator of the vehicle may be charged with vehicular homicide.
The exact penalties for a conviction of vehicular homicide will depend upon the circumstances of each individual accident. In the state of Michigan vehicular homicide is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and an assessed fine ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.
As a general rule, fatal traffic accidents resulting from a driver's poor judgment (switching lanes without using the rear-view mirror, having inoperative brake lights, etc.) won't be prosecuted as vehicular homicide. Rather, a charge of vehicular homicide is usually filed when it can be shown that the driver was drunk or under the influence of drugs, or operating his vehicle recklessly (say, going 90 miles per hour on a highway with a posted speed limit of 55 mph).
Vehicular homicide can also be charged if the driver responsible for a fatal accident was operating with a suspended, revoked or denied license (“denied” simply means that the driver never obtained a driver's license in the first place). For example, if an overeager teenager who has not yet obtained a learner's permit steals his or her parents' car and is involved in a fatal accident, he or she could well be facing charges of vehicular homicide (though the state will usually not prosecute such cases to the full extent of the law).
As you may have guessed, vehicular homicide cases are most serious when there's solid evidence of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), either because of alcohol or drugs. Circumstances are even worse when the driver at fault has incurred previous convictions for OWI (which may well be the reason he was driving with a suspended or revoked license in the first place); in these cases, a judge may well be inclined to “throw the book” at the defendant and sentence they to the maximum possible prison term. Even a particularly bad first-time vehicular homicide (i.e., if the driver was “super drunk,” with a blood-alcohol level of 0.17% or more) can result in a couple of decades in prison.
If you have been charged with vehicular homicide, you need to hire a lawyer conversant with Michigan's complicated driving laws. The key to a successful vehicular homicide defense is to show that the incident was in fact a genuine accident, and was not caused by speeding, intoxication or “road rage.”
Your Michigan vehicular manslaughter attorney from Grabel & Associates will aggressively leave no stone unturned in investigating the scene of the crime, obtaining eyewitness testimony, and challenging chemical tests conducted by the police; if there's no other choice, we may successfully plead down a vehicular homicide charge with the judge or district attorney, minimizing your fines, jail time and/or probation period.
For a free initial consultation to discuss how our Michigan felony crimes defense trial lawyers can help you, call us toll-free at 1-800-342-7896, or you can use the contact form on this website to contact us for a free confidential consultation.