Colorado’s Vehicular Homicide Laws and Penalties
When reckless driving or driving under the influence results in the death of another person, the driver can face felony vehicular homicide charges.
In Colorado, a motorist can be convicted of vehicular homicide (sometimes called “vehicular manslaughter”) for causing the death of another person while driving:
- under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), or
- in a reckless manner.
Under the influence. A driver is “under the influence” if “substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, of exercising clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and the amount of drugs in the driver’s system are factors that can come into play for the judge or jury in deciding whether the driver was under the influence.
Recklessness. A motorist drives in a “reckless manner” by consciously disregarding a “substantial and unjustifiable risk.” In other words, the motorist knows the driving is dangerous but does it anyway.
(Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 18-1-501, 18-3-106 (2017).)
Vehicular Homicide Penalties
The consequences of a vehicular homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. But the possible penalties are:
- DUI-related offense. A vehicular homicide offense involving driving under the influence is a class 3 felony. A conviction generally carries four to 12 years in prison and $3,000 to $750,000 in fines.
- Reckless offense. A vehicular homicide offense involving reckless driving is a class 4 felony. Convicted drivers are typically looking at two to six years in prison and $2,000 to $500,000 in fines.
For either type of vehicular homicide conviction, the motorist faces a minimum one-year license revocation.
(Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 18-1.3-401, 42-2-125, 18-3-106 (2017).)
HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?
Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.
If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney
Vehicular homicide is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. If you’ve been arrested for vehicular homicide—or any other crime—get in contact with a criminal defense attorney right away. The facts of every case are different. An experienced defense attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case.