Navigating Vehicular Manslaughter Charges in Florida

vehicular manslaughter, Navigating Vehicular Manslaughter Charges in Florida

The state of Florida records about 200,000 car crashes yearly, equating to more than 500 accidents per day. As a result, these crashes lead to thousands of fatal personal injuries and many vehicular manslaughter charges for negligent drivers.

Yet not all car crash fatalities result in a vehicular manslaughter charge. It’s also possible to receive a vehicular homicide charge.

To understand more about vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter in Florida, continue reading.

What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?

Florida law states that vehicular manslaughter is when no intent was present when the accident occurred. The driver is guilty of culpable negligence (also known as ordinary or simple negligence), which is conduct showing reckless disregard for human life or the safety of others.

For reference, Florida Statute 784.05 further outlines the state’s definition of culpable negligence.

Additionally, Florida Statute 316.193 identifies DUI manslaughter as vehicular manslaughter. Florida law often uses these terms interchangeably because DUI manslaughter is the most common type of vehicular manslaughter.

However, there are some differences. DUI manslaughter is when someone illegally operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes or contributes to causing the death of any human, including an unborn child.

Further, a DUI vehicular manslaughter charge indicates gross negligent driving and not ordinary negligent driving.

Difference Between Vehicular Manslaughter & Gross Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter both carry felony charges. However, gross vehicular manslaughter comes with harsher penalties because of the type of negligence.

Simple negligence for unintentional vehicular manslaughter in Florida indicates you were not paying attention or made a careless mistake. On the other hand, gross negligence indicates a seriously reckless act, such as driving under the influence.

Although a DUI charge is most closely associated with gross negligence, this charge can also be used in cases when a driver was driving in a reckless manner, such as:

  • Attempting to run another driver off the road
  • Distracted on the phone
  • Driving far more than the speed limit or not reducing speed in high-traffic areas
  • Driving without headlights at night
  • Intentionally colliding with another vehicle
  • Racing other drivers on the highway
  • Running stop signs or red lights

However the court must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the driver was engaged in reckless driving.

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in Florida

Vehicular manslaughter in Florida is a felony of the second degree. It is punishable by:

  • A prison sentence of up to 15 years
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Up to 120 hours of community service in a trauma center that treats car accident victims
  • License suspension lasting 3 to 12 months

Those that receive a vehicular manslaughter conviction may also face several years of probation or home detention as an alternative to prison time.

However, under Florida Statute 316.062, every driver involved in an accident must stop and give any necessary aid to the other drivers. You must also comply with requests for information from law enforcement officers. This includes providing the following:

  • Contact details (including address)
  • ID
  • Vehicle license and registration

If you flee the scene of the accident (hit-and-run), fail to render aid, or give information, you could face additional charges.

In these instances, instead of a second-degree felony, you will face a first-degree felony and a prison sentence of up to 30 years. The fine and community service hours remain the same, but you may also face up to 30 years of probation.

What Is Vehicular Homicide?

Vehicular or DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in Florida are separate crimes, even though they seem almost identical.

According to Florida Statute 782.071, vehicular homicide is also the killing of a human being, including an unborn child, by the operation of a motor vehicle.

However, a vehicular homicide case indicates there was intent present during the time of the accident.

The penalties for vehicular homicide in Florida are much stiffer than for vehicular manslaughter.

A vehicular homicide conviction faces the same penalties as a hit-and-run vehicular manslaughter conviction, a first-degree felony, and a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

Sentencing for Vehicular Manslaughter or Homicide Charges

A sentencing judge will review the case and follow the sentencing guidelines outlined by Florida state law to impose a length of incarceration.

The judge has the power to impose a lesser sentence if the facts warrant a downward departure from the suggested sentencing guidelines. Judges can use the following positive attributes to justify a lower sentence:

  • Good family life
  • No prior criminal history
  • Solid work history
  • Strong community connections

Conversely, the judge can also use aggravating factors to impose harsher criminal charges. These include:

  • A life of recidivism
  • A long criminal history and prior convictions
  • Poor work history
  • Substance misuse

What Is the Minimum Sentence for Vehicular Manslaughter in Florida?

Vehicular homicide in Florida is a Level 7 offense. That means the minimum sentence for those convicted of vehicular homicide (or manslaughter) is nine years and three months in prison.

Defenses Against Vehicular Homicide and Manslaughter 

A criminal defense lawyer will know the most up-to-date vehicular manslaughter and homicide laws to best fight your case. Yet, some common defense tactics include:

  • Denying liability
  • Investigating law enforcement protocol
  • Denying gross negligence

Your lawyer may argue that you were not entirely at fault for the accident, even if another driver was killed. The deceased driver may have contributed to or caused their own accident, especially if they were also engaged in reckless driving.

Law enforcement officers are required to follow strict protocols during traffic accidents. If they did not follow protocol during your accident, your attorney could use this defense to have your charges downgraded or even dropped.

Finally, if the state says you were guilty of gross negligence, your lawyer could argue you were only guilty of ordinary negligence instead.

Facing Charges? Speak to Us

If you were involved in a fatal crash in Florida in which there was the death of another person and are facing vehicular homicide charges, you need legal representation immediately. Vehicular manslaughter in Florida comes with severe consequences for those convicted.

So get help now by contacting the law firm of Mike G Law for a free case evaluation. Mike G is a no-nonsense criminal defense attorney who has worked diligently to help thousands of clients with their criminal cases. Get his legal advice from your free consultation today.

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