Ohio’s Vehicular Homicide and Manslaughter Laws and Penalties

A motorist who kills another person while driving negligently, recklessly, or in violation of any traffic law will likely face vehicular homicide or manslaughter charges.

Ohio has three types of vehicular homicide: “aggravated vehicular homicide,” “vehicular homicide,” and “vehicular manslaughter.”

In Ohio, a person can be convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide for causing the death of another person while:

Ohio defines vehicular homicide as causing the death of another person while:

  • driving negligently, or
  • speeding in a construction zone.

And vehicular manslaughter is where a driver kills another person committing a traffic violation that is a minor misdemeanor. Speeding and running a stop sign or red light are examples of minor misdemeanors.

Negligence. Generally, negligence involves the failure of a person, because of a substantial lapse of care, to perceive or avoid a risk that the person's conduct may cause or may be of a certain nature.

Recklessness. Recklessness is a more culpable mental than negligence. A person acts recklessly when, with heedless indifference to the consequences, disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the person's conduct is likely to cause or is likely to be of a certain nature.

Causation. A driver can be convicted of vehicular homicide or manslaughter only if there’s proof that the unlawful driving was a legal cause of the death. In other words, there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s driving and the death.

(Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2901.22, 2903.06 (2017).)

Homicide by Vehicle Penalties

The sentencing laws for vehicular homicide and manslaughter are complicated. But generally, the possible penalties for a conviction are:

  • Aggravated vehicular homicide involving OVI or BUI offenses. Generally, an aggravated vehicular homicide conviction based on OVI or BUI is a second-degree felony. Convicted defendants face two to eight years in prison, a maximum $15,000 in fines, and a lifetime license suspension.
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide involving reckless driving. Generally, an aggravated vehicular homicide conviction based on reckless driving is a third-degree felony. A conviction carries nine months to three years in prison, a maximum $10,000 in fines, and a three-year to lifetime license suspension.
  • Vehicular homicide. Generally, vehicular homicide is a first-degree misdemeanor. Convicted motorists are looking at up to six months in jail, a maximum $1,000 in fines, and a one to five-year license suspension.
  • Vehicular manslaughter. Generally, vehicular manslaughter is a second-degree misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to 90 days in jail, a maximum $750 in fines, and a three-month to two-year license suspension.

(Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2903.06, 2929.14, 2929.18, 2929.21, 4510.02 (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 homicide and manslaughter are serious crimes. If you’ve been arrested for vehicular homicide or 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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