Getting Answers To Charges Related To Minnesota Criminal Vehicular Homicide
When someone is killed by a vehicle, sometimes it is an accident, and sometimes it is criminal. But not every accident involving a death should result in a criminal vehicular homicide conviction. At Ryan Pacyga Criminal Defense, we understand the many reasons at play in a criminal vehicular homicide case. We can help you understand what you are facing and what you can do about it.
Here are the most commonly asked questions and the answers. These are hypothetical situations and do not reflect legal advice.
What is vehicular homicide?
According to Minnesota state statute, you can be found guilty of criminal vehicular homicide any time you cause someone’s death while you are operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner; in a negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance, or any combination of those; while having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more; in a negligent manner while under the influence of an intoxicating substance and the person knows or has reason to know that the substance has the capacity to cause impairment; in a negligent manner while any amount of a controlled substance under Schedule 1 or 2 is present in the body; where the driver who causes the collision leaves the scene; where the driver had actual knowledge that a peace officer had previously issued a citation or warning that the vehicle was defectively maintained, the driver had actual knowledge that remedial action was not taken, the driver had reason to know that the defect created the present danger and the death was caused by the defective maintenance. Most vehicular homicide cases are considered “involuntary murder.”
What happens if I go through a stop sign and hit someone?
In most cases, you will be charged with gross negligence. You could be charged with vehicular manslaughter if you hit the person and they die. In some cases, if there are drugs or alcohol involved or you’ve had previous warnings, you may be charged with a more severe crime such as vehicular homicide.
Is vehicular homicide the same as murder?
No. Vehicular homicide is different than both a murder charge and a manslaughter charge. Vehicular homicide can be charged whenever someone commits an “egregious error” not necessarily on purpose but because they were not paying attention or being careful enough. Vehicular manslaughter is a charge that happens when the driver or operator of a vehicle accidentally kills someone while committing a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor can be driving over the speed limit or going through a stop sign or red light. You may also be charged with manslaughter if you passed someone while you were in a no passing zone or made an illegal U-turn and caused a fatal accident.
Do I have to be driving a car to be charged with vehicular homicide in Minnesota?
Not necessarily. Recreational vehicles such as boats, ATVs, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles may also fall under the motor vehicle category.
If I have been driving under the influence and hit and kill someone, is that vehicular homicide?
If you are under a .08 alcohol level, the prosecution must also prove that you were driving in a negligent manner. But if you are .08 or more, then you can be charged with criminal vehicular homicide even if you were not “negligent.”
If I panic and flee the scene after I hit someone, what will I be charged with?
In Minnesota, most likely you will be charged with vehicular homicide if you cause a fatal accident and flee.
What is the punishment in Minnesota for criminal vehicular homicide?
Every case and every circumstance is different. In many cases, prison time of up to 10 years and a steep fine of up to $20,000 will be part of the sentencing.
What is the maximum prison time for vehicular homicide in Minnesota?
Again, this will depend on the circumstances regarding the charges. In 2020, as per subdivision 1 of the state code, the maximum prison time is 10 years and a $20,000 fine.
What should a person who is charged with vehicular homicide do?
Because of the incredible severity of the punishments, you should protect yourself by not speaking to anyone, including friends and family, about what happened. Instead, immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who has an extensive record of defending criminal vehicular homicide cases. We all make mistakes. Most of us never want to hurt anyone else. Having made a mistake that caused a fatal accident does not make you or your loved one a bad or evil person, and it also does not necessarily mean that you have committed a crime, even if you are accused of it.
Speak With An Experienced Vehicular Homicide Lawyer Today
These are serious charges that should be handled by an attorney who understands what is at stake and what needs to be done. At Ryan Pacyga Criminal Defense, we will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence law enforcement has against you. We will clearly explain your possible defenses. We will work strategically to collect evidence on your behalf and build a strong case in your defense. We will not waste your time with unrealistic strategies but whenever possible will seek charge dismissal, reduction or a plea that is in your best interest. We are trial attorneys. We understand how prosecutors and judges think. Call 612-474-5420 24/7 and 365 days a year. If your issue is not urgent, send us an email from this website. We represent clients in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, throughout Minnesota and across the U.S.