Washington D.C.’s Negligent (Vehicular) Homicide Laws and Penalties

In the District of Columbia, a motorist who drives carelessly, negligently, or recklessly and causes the death of another person will likely face negligent homicide charges.

Washington D.C. defines “negligent homicide” (sometimes called “vehicular homicide”) as causing the death of another person while driving in a “careless, reckless, or negligent manner.”

Negligence. To be convicted of negligent homicide, the driver must have been at least negligent. A person acts with negligence by failing to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would under like circumstances.

Causation. A motorist can’t be convicted of negligent homicide unless there’s proof that the motorist’s driving was a legal cause of the fatality. In other words, there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s driving and the death. 

(D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2203.01 (2017); Butts v. United States, 822 A.2d 407 (2003).)

Negligent Homicide Penalties

The consequences of a negligent homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, negligent homicide is a felony and carries up to five years in prison and/or a maximum $250,000 in fines. The motorist may additionally face license suspension for the conviction.

And a negligent homicide conviction will add points to a motorist’s driving record. Accumulating eight or more points within two years can also lead to license suspension.

(D.C. Code Ann. §§ 22-3571.01, 50-1403.01, 50-2203.01 (2017); D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 18, § 303 (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, “suspended” sentences, 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

Negligent homicide is a serious criminal charge. If you’ve been arrested for negligent 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 and help you decide on the best plan of action.

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