After a deadly accident, law enforcement officers and prosecutors will ask many questions of the drivers involved. The questioning will start at the scene of the accident and continue long afterward.
If during their investigation they discover a driver might have been drunk or under the influence of drugs, the prosecutor may file a special type of involuntary manslaughter charge which is also known as second-degree manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter.
A vehicular manslaughter charge is a Class C felony and carries a sentence of between 1 and 15 years in prison as well as a fine. The penalties can be even harsher in some situations. Additionally, after a conviction, a person will have their license to drive revoked for years.
Any driver in New York could face a vehicular manslaughter charge after they have been in an accident in which someone else was killed.
It is important to keep in mind that a driver can face this charge after any fatal automobile accident, even if they had absolutely no intention of hurting anyone.
A person’s driving prior to the accident need not have even been especially bad. For example, if a driver just misses a stop sign but happens to be legally under the influence, they can face a vehicular manslaughter charge if they cause a fatal accident because of their mistake.
Defenses to vehicular manslaughter charges are available
Police and prosecutors do have to prove that an accused driver actually caused a fatal accident.
Importantly, they also must prove their underlying DWI case and do so using only legally allowed evidence.
Many times, a defendant may have a valid defense to a vehicular manslaughter charge. Especially since the consequences are so serious, someone facing this type of charge should make sure they understand all of their legal options.