Louisiana's Vehicular Homicide Laws and Penalties

When driving under the influence leads to the death of another person, vehicular homicide charges may follow.

In Louisiana, a motorist can be convicted of vehicular homicide for causing the death of another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Under the influence. For purposes of the vehicular homicide law, “under the influence” means the motorist:

  • is impaired by alcohol, a controlled substance, or any drug to an extent that the motorist lacks normal use of “physical and mental faculties”
  • has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater, or
  • has a detectable amount of a schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (that has not been medically ordered or prescribed) in the body.

Causation. A driver can be convicted of vehicular homicide only if there’s proof that the driver’s impairment was a contributing cause of the death. In other words, it’s not enough to merely show the defendant drove while intoxicated and someone died—there needs to be a direct link between the intoxication and the death.

(La. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:32.1, 40:964 (2017).)

Vehicular Homicide Penalties

Vehicular homicide is a felony in Louisiana. Generally, convicted motorists face at least $2,000 in fines, a two-year license suspension, and three to 30 years in prison. However, the minimum prison sentence is five years for defendants who had a BAC of .15% or more or have at least one prior OWI/DUI conviction. All vehicular homicide offenders must participate in a substance abuse program, and the court has the option of ordering the offender to complete a driver improvement program.

(La. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:32.1, 32:667.1 (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

A vehicular homicide conviction involves serious consequences. 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 and help you decide on the best course of action.

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