Virginia’s Vehicular Manslaughter Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and kills another person will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges.

In Virginia, a person can be convicted of “involuntary manslaughter” (also called “vehicular manslaughter” and “vehicular homicide”) for causing the death of another person while driving “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol in violation of the state’s DUI laws.

Under the influence. For purposes of the vehicular manslaughter statute, “under the influence” means impairment is observable in the person’s “manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior.”

Causation. A motorist can’t be convicted of vehicular manslaughter unless there’s proof that the motorist’s intoxication was a legal cause of the death. In other words, there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s intoxication and the death. 

(Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-36.1 (2017).)

Vehicular Manslaughter Penalties

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

  • Vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter is a class 5 felony. Convicted drivers generally face up to ten years in prison and a maximum $2,500 in fines.
  • Aggravated vehicular manslaughter. Enhanced penalties apply to vehicular manslaughter offenses where the driver’s conduct was “so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.” Aggravated vehicular manslaughter (also called “aggravated involuntary manslaughter”) carries one to 20 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.

All drivers convicted of vehicular manslaughter are looking at permanent license revocation.

(Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-10, 18.2-36, 18.2-36.1, 46.2-391 (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. 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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