If you are facing charges of vehicular homicide after causing someone’s death in an accident, you might be traumatized about what happened and scared for what the future might hold. If the offense involved alcohol, you might feel remorse, but the offense will likely have a permanent impact on your emotions and life. Vehicular homicide charges in Pennsylvania are serious offenses that could result in significant penalties. When you are facing this type of charge, you should retain a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The DUI lawyer in Chester County at DiCindio Law is experienced with defending people against all types of charges. Even though you might feel terrible about what happened, being charged with vehicular homicide does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted.
What is Vehicular Homicide in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with vehicular homicide in two different ways. If your offense involved alcohol while you were driving, you can be charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol. You can also be charged with vehicular homicide when you were not impaired if you unintentionally caused a fatal accident while driving recklessly or engaging in gross negligence. Some examples of conduct that could result in a vehicular homicide charge when you were not impaired include such things as texting while driving, racing, road rage, or driving after being awake for 24 or more hours.
What are the Penalties for Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence?
If you are convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol in Pennsylvania, you will face serious penalties. For a first offense, the following penalties might apply:
- Second-degree felony on your record
- First-degree felony if you have a prior DUI offense on your record
- For a second-degree felony, a minimum of three years in prison and three years consecutive for each victim
- For a first-degree felony, a minimum of five years in prison if you have one prior DUI offense or seven years in prison if you have two prior DUIs
- Fines of up to $25,000
Other factors that can influence the amount of prison time you might face include whether your accident occurred in a construction zone, whether your accident involved an emergency vehicle, the number of victims who were killed, and whether you were on probation or parole at the time of your offense. All of these factors can result in a longer prison sentence.
Under 75 Pa.C.S.3735, you can be charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence when you unintentionally cause a fatal accident because you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. The prosecutor will have the burden of proof to prove the following elements before you can be found guilty:
- Someone was killed.
- The person was killed because of you operating or driving a car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- You were impaired by alcohol or drugs when the accident happened.
The prosecutor does not have to prove that your BAC was above a certain level to show that you were impaired. Prosecutors can rely on other types of evidence to show that you were intoxicated or impaired, including traffic cameras and witness testimony. Since prosecutors can rely on many different types of evidence to prove that you were impaired by drugs or alcohol, getting help from an experienced defense attorney is critical when you are facing this type of charge.
Defending Against Vehicular Homicide while Driving Under the Influence Charges
When you retain an attorney to defend against vehicular homicide while driving under the influence charges, he or she will carefully analyze all of the evidence to identify any potential defenses that might be raised. In general, fewer defenses are available for vehicular homicide cases than for other types of homicide offenses since the requisite mental state is recklessness. This means that you can’t argue that you were defending yourself. However, your lawyer might still be able to defend you by showing that the person’s death was not caused by your actions.
For example, if you hit and killed a pedestrian who ran in front of you in a mid-block area instead of a crosswalk, your actions might not have been the cause of his or her death. While this might not be enough for you to secure a dismissal of your case, your attorney might be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce your charges.
Building a strong defense to a charge of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is complex. Your attorney might have to retain several experts to help you defend against your charges. For example, your attorney might work with an accident reconstruction expert to demonstrate what happened in the moments leading up to your accident to show that your conduct was not the direct or proximate cause of the victim’s death. He or she might work with a forensic expert to show that your blood test results were inaccurate and unreliable.
Your attorney will investigate your case thoroughly to identify other issues with the prosecutor’s case against you. For example, if the police interrogated you without reading your Miranda warnings, your attorney might file a motion requesting that any statements you made during the interrogation are suppressed together with any evidence collected as a result of them. If there is a break in the chain of custody of your blood sample, your attorney might ask the court to rule the blood test and the results are inadmissible so that the prosecutor can’t use them against you.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense. If you have been charged with this crime, you should talk to an experienced lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. Call us today at 610.430.3535 to schedule a consultation.