Vehicular Homicide DUI Related Offenses
Pennsylvania Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Homicide Which is DUI Related
If you have been charged with unintentionally taking the life of another person with your vehicle, then you know just how traumatic those charges are. You may have enormous feelings of guilt and remorse, and these emotions could be with you for the rest of your life. Additionally, you are facing significant legal problems that will be resolved in a criminal court of law. Of course, the best way to avoid charges of vehicular homicide is to drive carefully, however there are times when you may have driven as safely as possible, yet are still being charged with vehicular homicide. Or, perhaps you made a serious, one-time mistake, which you will regret forever, yet you must still deal with the consequences. When a tragedy such as this strikes, you could feel guilty for surviving the accident, or you could be dealing with your own injuries.
The attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices are aware that good people can make mistakes which potentially cost them their future and their freedom. Our attorneys are compassionate to your current situation, and we have a deep understanding of your rights as well as your options. When possible, we will work hard on your behalf to have your charges dropped altogether, or at the very least, reduced to lesser charges. If that is not possible, then we will work equally hard to have your sentence reduced, with a goal of helping you avoid prison time. Remember—just because you are facing charges of vehicular homicide, this in no way means you will automatically be convicted. There are many factors to consider, and each case is different.
Pennsylvania Vehicular Homicide
In the state of Pennsylvania, there are two types of vehicular homicide. If you were driving under the influence and you take the life of another with your vehicle, then you would be charged with Homicide by Vehicle while DUI. The other type is a form of manslaughter, or Homicide by Vehicle, with no impairment involved. Vehicular Homicide, or Homicide by Vehicle, means you unintentionally caused the death of another human being. You could have done so because you broke a traffic law, or because you were driving recklessly or were grossly negligent in the operation of your car. Some examples include:
- Failing to stop at a stop sign
- Running a red light
- Driving while taking a prescription which warns against driving
- Texting while driving
- Not sleeping for 24 hours, then getting behind the wheel of your car
- Exceeding the speed limit
- Ignoring warning signs
- Engaging in road rage
- Engaging in street racing
Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Pennsylvania
Vehicular Homicide in the state of Pennsylvania, is charged as a third-degree felony. If convicted, you could face a three-year suspension of your driver’s license, a fine as large as $15,000, and up to seven years in prison. The amount of prison time you are sentenced to has to do with whether you have any other vehicular convictions, any prior DUI convictions, whether the accident occurred in a work zone, whether you are on probation, whether you are on parole or if there was an emergency vehicle involved in the accident. Any of these factors could result in an increase in your prison sentence. In short, the criminal consequences for Vehicular Homicide are similar to those of other felonies, despite the fact that the accident could have been just that—an accident.
Your attorney could be able to secure a deferred or suspended sentence to help you avoid jail or prison time. If you are placed on probation for Vehicular Homicide, the judge may order you to comply with specialized conditions related to your offense. As an example, suppose you were convicted of killing a pedestrian while you were texting and driving. The judge could require you to face victim impact panels as a means of ensuring you fully understand that your choices have consequences. If medical expenses were incurred by the family of the deceased, the judge could order you to reimburse the family for those expenses. To prove your guilt, it must be shown you acted in a reckless manner, that you caused a death, that you were in the process of breaking a traffic law when the death occurred, and that because you broke that traffic law, you directly caused the death of another person.
Vehicular Homicide while DUI Defined under 75 Pa. C.S.A. §3735
75 Pa. C.S.A. §3735 states that an individual has committed vehicular homicide while DUI when he or she unintentionally causes the death of another due to a violation of §3802 (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
Under this statute, an individual convicted of vehicular homicide while DUI is guilty of a second-degree felony punishable by a minimum of three years imprisonment. In the event that multiple deaths occur from the same incident, the offender is required to serve three consecutive years for each victim.
In order for the prosecution to successfully prove an offender’s guilt, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The death of a third party occurred;
- The death was caused by the alleged offender operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and
- The alleged offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Under Pennsylvania law, the prosecution is not required to prove that the defendant had a specific blood alcohol content in order to show that the defendant was intoxicated. Mere circumstantial evidence and direct evidence, such as witness testimony or traffic cameras, may be enough to support a finding of intoxication.
Due to the prosecution’s ability to prove intoxication without the use of a blood alcohol test, defending yourself against a DUI, and subsequently, vehicular homicide requires the knowledge a defense attorney with solid experience in the courtroom.
Licensed Drug & Alcohol Treatment– Visit the DUI Program Treatment page of the Chester County Government site for more information on alcohol addiction treatment programs near you. This website also provides contact information for these programs, and a calendar of upcoming meetings. Also, find information on recovery education and counseling.
Find a Lawyer for Vehicular Homicide while DUI in Chester County, PA
After a DUI-related fatality, you may be frightened and confused. Let the attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices give you clarity by explaining your process and developing defenses on your behalf. Call Ciccarelli Law Offices at (610) 692-8700 for a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.
Operating out of West Chester, our firm also accepts clients in neighboring cities such as Philadelphia, Coatesville, King of Prussia, and Kennett Square. Additionally, Ciccarelli Law Offices represents clients in nearby counties surrounding Chester County including Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, Chester County, and Lancaster County.
Penalties for DUI-Related Vehicular Homicide in Pennsylvania
If you were driving under the influence and committed Vehicular Homicide, you could face second-degree felony charges. If convicted, you could face up to ten years in prison and a maximum of $25,000 in fines. To prove your guilt for DUI-related Vehicular Homicide charges, the prosecution must show you drove under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol, that you are responsible for causing a death, and that the death you caused was the result of your driving while impaired.
Defenses for Pennsylvania Vehicular Homicide and DUI-Related Vehicular Homicide
Defenses for Vehicular Homicide are fewer than those for “regular” homicide charges, which generally provide provisions for self-defense. Regarding Vehicular Homicide, your mental state is generally considered to be reckless, therefore you could not claim self-defense. Your attorney may still be able to disprove causation as a defense to your charges. This means that the death of another person is not, in and of itself, sufficient to convict you of Vehicular Homicide. The prosecution must also show a connection between that death and your conduct.
As an example, if you hit a pedestrian who ran out from behind a parked vehicle, then even if you were exceeding the speed limit, your conduct might not have caused the death. Even if such a defense is not entirely successful, your attorney could still have your charges reduced. These are serious charges which will not go away if you ignore them. Contacting an experienced attorney from the Ciccarelli Law Offices immediately is the very best thing you do for your future. At Ciccarelli Law Offices, success is our mission—we are driven to serve and ready to fight. Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices at (610)-692-8700.