South Carolina’s Reckless Vehicular Homicide Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives recklessly and kills another person will likely face reckless vehicular homicide charges.

In South Carolina, a motorist can be convicted of “reckless vehicular homicide” for causing the death of another person while driving in “reckless disregard of the safety of others.” 

Reckless disregard. Basically, a person acts with reckless disregard for the safety of others by knowingly doing something that poses a safety threat to other people. In other words, the person knows the conduct is dangerous but decides to do it anyway.

Causation. A driver can be convicted of reckless 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 and someone died—there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s driving and the death.

Timing of the death. To be guilty of reckless vehicular homicide, the victim doesn’t have to die right away. South Carolina’s reckless vehicular homicide law applies if the victim dies within three years of the accident.

(S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2910 (2017).)

Reckless Vehicular Homicide Penalties

Reckless vehicular homicide is a felony in South Carolina. Convicted motorists face up to ten years in prison and/or $1,000 to $5,000 in fines. A reckless vehicular homicide conviction also leads to a five-year license revocation. However, after completing the first year of the revocation, the driver can petition the court for license reinstatement. The court can reinstate the driver’s license only if:

  • the offense didn’t involve drugs or alcohol
  • the driver has completed the jail sentence and paid all fines and victim restitution, and
  • the driver’s record, attitude, habits, character, and driving ability indicate license reinstatement is safe.

In lieu of full reinstatement, the court also has the option of ordering a restricted license for the remainder of the five-year period.

(S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2910 (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 reckless vehicular homicide conviction comes with serious consequences. If you’ve been arrested for reckless 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 plan of action.

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