Drunk driving often has serious consequences. Many motorists think they can drive safely even after they’ve had a few drinks since they don’t consider themselves intoxicated. However, studies show that a blood alcohol concentration of just 0.2 percent impairs a driver’s ability to drive safely. It’s no surprise that impaired driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents and a frequent contributor to fatal accidents. Driving under the influence is always a criminal offense. However, if you’re involved in a drunk driving accident that results in death, you will probably face even more serious charges.
In Georgia, you’ll likely be charged with first-degree vehicular homicide. This simply refers to the unlawful killing of another person with a vehicle. The state doesn’t have to prove that you intended to kill the individual. In addition to driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, other actions that can result in a first-degree or felony vehicular homicide charge are:
- Unlawfully failing to stop after an accident
- Unlawfully meeting or overtaking a school bus
- Driving recklessly
- Failing to stop for a law enforcement officer or otherwise fleeing
- Having been previously deemed a habitual violator
If you’ve been charged with vehicular homicide after a drunk driving accident, you need to seek advice from a DUI attorney in Atlanta.
Felony vs Misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide in Georgia
It is always a tragedy when someone dies in a car accident. However, accused people often wonder if they will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Vehicular homicide can fall into either category depending on exactly how the accident occurred. Generally, a driver is charged with a misdemeanor if the death resulted from the violation of basic traffic laws.
For example, the driver may have been speeding, following too closely or failing to stay in their lane. A conviction for such a charge is usually punishable by incarceration for up to one year. However, if the death resulted from a DUI or reckless driving, you would most likely be charged with a felony. That’s because these actions are taken more seriously than simple traffic offenses that unfortunately result in a fatality.
The punishment for vehicular homicide varies depending on the circumstances. Typically, drivers convicted of first-degree vehicular homicide receive prison sentences of between two and 15 years. Probation is possible but if the driver is a habitual violator, they will have to serve at least one year of the sentence.
Defenses to DUI-Related Vehicular Homicide Charges
The state has to prove that you were impaired and that your actions cause the individual’s death. Therefore, to beat a charge of vehicular homicide, your lawyer may first seek to defend you against the underlying DUI charge. If the prosecution can’t prove that you were impaired or that you violated any major traffic laws, they can’t charge you with a felony. You may, therefore, be able to get a more positive outcome.
On the other hand, being guilty of a DUI doesn’t automatically mean that you caused the victim’s death. You may not have been responsible for the accident even though you were intoxicated. The prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that were it not for you driving drunk, the other person would have lived. The state also needs to disprove that the deceased person didn’t cause or contribute to their own death. These cases aren’t as simple as they may at first appear.
Your DUI attorney in Atlanta will thoroughly investigate your case before coming up with the most appropriate defense. They may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charge reduced to misdemeanor vehicular homicide. Prosecutors have quite a bit of discretion with these types of charges. However, you need to contact an attorney at the earliest possible opportunity so they can begin negotiating. Vehicular homicide isn’t murder but it’s still one of the most serious charges you can face.
Contact Howard & Arca DUI Lawyers Today to Get the Help You Need
If you’re facing a DUI and/or DUI-related charges, there is hope. You shouldn’t give up and assume you’ll go to jail. An accusation isn’t a conviction and with help from an experienced Georgia DUI attorney, you can fight the charges. At Howard & Arca, we’ll do everything we can to get you the best possible outcome. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and benefit from our experience. Getting the right legal advice can make a major difference in a criminal case.