New Mexico’s Vehicular Homicide Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes the death of another person will likely face vehicular homicide charges.

In New Mexico, a person can be convicted of “vehicular homicide” (sometimes called “vehicular manslaughter”) for causing the death of another person by operating a vehicle while:

Under the influence. For purposes of New Mexico’s vehicular homicide laws, a motorist is “under the influence” if incapable of safely driving a vehicle.

Causation. A driver can be convicted of vehicular homicide only if there’s proof that the driver was a legal cause of the death. It’s not enough to merely show the defendant drove recklessly or while under the influence and someone died—there needs to be a significant link between the driving and the death.

(N.M. Stat. Ann. § 66-8-101 (2017); State v. Munoz, 126 N.M. 371 (1998).)

Vehicular Homicide Penalties

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

  • Offenses involving intoxication. Vehicular homicide involving driving under the influence is a second degree felony. Convicted motorists generally face up to 15 years in prison and a maximum $12,500 in fines. However, motorists in this category who have at least one prior DWI (driving while intoxicated) conviction that occurred within the past ten years are looking at up to 19 years in prison.
  • Offenses involving reckless driving. Defendants who commit vehicular homicide while driving recklessly are guilty of a third degree felony. A conviction carries up to six years in prison and a maximum $5,000 in fines.
  • Offenses involving flight from an officer. Vehicular homicide committed while attempting to evade an officer is a third degree felony and carries up to six years in prison and a maximum $5,000 in fines.

(N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-18-15 (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 crime in New Mexico. 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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