DUI accidents that result in death attract the harshest penalties such as lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines. This is a guarantee especially if the driver that caused the accident was impaired by alcohol or drugs (illegal or prescription medication). A motorist can be convicted of vehicular homicide if the accident they caused while impaired resulted in death or great bodily harm and certain other conditions were met (see video below). Vehicular homicide is a felony in Louisiana.
A prosecutor only needs to prove that you were intoxicated when you caused the accident for you to get convicted. That means that defense arguments like lack of intent to cause harm cannot get you out of trouble. Only a highly trained attorney may be in a position to help defeat the case against you.
What the Law Means by “Vehicle”
You can be convicted of vehicular homicide whether you were operating a car or any other means of conveyance such as a motor boat and so on. In other words, if an intoxicated person is driving a motor boat causes a fatal accident, that person will face serious criminal charges.
Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
The alcohol blood content (BAC) level that will get you in trouble is .08% and above. However, you may still face serious charges if you were driving under the influence of a combination of prescription or non-prescription drugs and alcohol. In such a situation, you will face charges even if your BAC level is under .08%.
You will be arrested and charged with vehicular homicide if you were driving under the influence of legal or illegal, prescription and non-prescription drugs. You can get impaired and cause a fatal accident by taking a more than recommended dose of prescription or OTC drugs, or when you consume alcohol after taking medication. That may be all the prosecutor needs to prove you are guilty especially if you took the high dose of medication knowingly. Prescription drug containers have warnings on the label about whether it is safe to drive after taking the medicine, and also the right dose of medicine.
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Vehicular Homicide Penalties
The punishments for vehicular homicide include:
- 5 year to 30 year prison time with or without hard labor with a minimum of 3 years without benefit of suspension or parole
- Paying a fine of $2,000 to $15,000
- 5 years prison time without benefit of parole, probation or suspended sentencing if you had a prior DWI/DUI conviction
- Vehicular homicide offenders have to participate in a substance abuse program
There are a number of factors that affect actual punishment in these kinds of cases. But a criminal defense attorney with experience dealing with such cases in your jurisdiction can help you understand the process.
What Caused the Accident?
There has to be proof that a driver’s impairment was what caused the accident and the death. It is not always the intoxicated driver that causes the accident. The other driver who is not intoxicated may have been speeding or crossed a red light and ended up causing the accident. There must be a direct link between the intoxication and the death.