Idaho’s Vehicular Manslaughter Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives negligently or while under the influence and causes the death of another person may face vehicular manslaughter charges in Idaho.

In Idaho, a motorist can be convicted of “vehicular manslaughter” (sometimes called “vehicular homicide”) for causing the death of another person while:

  • committing a misdemeanor or infraction and driving in a “negligent” or “grossly negligent” manner, or

  • driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in violation of the state’s DUI laws.

A vehicular manslaughter conviction requires proof that the driver’s operation of the vehicle was a “significant cause” of the other person’s death.  

Negligence and gross negligence. The difference between “negligence” and “gross negligence” is a matter of degree. A person acts with negligence by failing to exercise the degree of care that a prudent person would under like circumstances. With gross negligence, the defendant not only fails to exercise reasonable care, but does so to a degree that’s substantially greater than would constitute ordinary negligence.

Under the influence. For purposes of the vehicular manslaughter statute, “under the influence” means the person had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more or was impaired by drugs or alcohol to an extent so as to influence or affect the person’s driving abilities.

(Idaho Code Ann. § 18-4006 (2017); State v. McNair, 141 Idaho 263 (2005); State v. Oliver, 144 Idaho 722 (2007).)

Vehicular Manslaughter Penalties

The consequences of a vehicular manslaughter conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • DUI-related offenses. A motorist who’s convicted of DUI-related vehicular manslaughter faces up to 15 years in prison and/or a maximum $15,000 in fines.

  • Grossly negligent vehicular manslaughter. A motorist who’s convicted of vehicular manslaughter based on grossly negligent driving is looking at up to ten years in prison and/or a maximum $10,000 in fines.

  • Negligent vehicular manslaughter. A motorist who’s convicted of vehicular manslaughter based on negligent driving faces up to one year in jail and/or a maximum $2,000 in fines.

If a vehicular manslaughter offense leads to the death of the parent of a child, the sentencing judge can order the offender to pay child support until the child reaches age 18.  And all vehicular manslaughter offenders face license revocation, either by the court or the Idaho Transportation Department.

(Idaho Code Ann. §§ 18-4007, 49-325, 49-326 (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

Vehicular manslaughter is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. If you’ve been arrested for vehicular manslaughter—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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