In Alaska, causing the death of another person while behind the wheel can lead to serious criminal charges. This article covers Alaska's vehicular homicide and manslaughter laws and the penalties you'll face if convicted of one of these offenses.
Unlike many other states, Alaska doesn't have a "vehicular homicide" statute that applies exclusively to driving-related unlawful killings. However, an Alaska motorist who causes the death of another person while behind the wheel can be prosecuted under the state's more general homicide laws. Depending on the circumstances, a fatal accident could result in negligent homicide, manslaughter, or murder charges against the at-fault driver.
A motorist can be convicted of negligent homicide for causing the death of another person while driving in a criminally negligent manner. A person acts with criminal negligence by unknowingly doing or failing to do something that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use in like circumstances.
A motorist who kills another person while driving "recklessly" can be charged with manslaughter. A person acts with recklessness by knowingly doing or failing to do something that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use in like circumstances.
So the difference between negligence and recklessness—and therefore between negligent homicide and manslaughter—is whether the defendant was aware of the risk created by the conduct. Generally, a person who was aware of but disregarded the risk is guilty of manslaughter, whereas a person without such awareness is guilty of negligent homicide.
A person commits second-degree murder by knowingly engaging in conduct that shows an "extreme indifference to the value of human life."
The difference between manslaughter and second-degree murder is a matter of degree. And the dividing line isn't always clear. However, in general, second-degree murder requires proof of a more culpable mental state than recklessness (the mental state for manslaughter).
The consequences of a driving-related homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. However, the possible penalties for each type of offense are described below.
Criminally negligent homicide is a class B felony. A conviction generally carries up to ten years in prison and a maximum of $100,000 in fines.
Manslaughter is a class A felony. Convicted motorists generally face up to 20 years in prison and a maximum of $250,000 in fines.
Second-degree murder is an "unclassified" felony. A motorist convicted of second-degree murder is generally looking at 15 to 99 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
Murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide are serious criminal charges. If you've been arrested for a driving-related killing—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.