Georgia's Vehicular Homicide Laws and Penalties

When driving under the influence leads to the death of another person, vehicular homicide charges may follow.

Georgia has two types of vehicular homicide: first degree and second degree. First-degree vehicular homicide involves causing the death of another person while:

  • in violation of Georgia's DUI laws
  • in violation of Georgia's reckless driving laws
  • illegally overtaking and passing a school bus
  • fleeing from police
  • committing a hit-and-run offense, or
  • on a revoked license after having been declared a "habitual violator."

Second-degree vehicular homicide—the less serious of the two types—is defined as causing the death of another person while committing any traffic offense (like speeding or running a red light) other than those specified above.

Habitual violators. Under Georgia law, a "habitual violator" is a motorist who is convicted of three or more of certain serious traffic-related crimes within a five-year period. For purposes of the habitual violator statute, qualifying traffic offenses include DUI, reckless driving, vehicular homicide, hit and run, fleeing an officer, and any felony involving a motor vehicle.

Causation. A motorist can be convicted of vehicular homicide only if there's proof that the 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.

Vehicular Homicide Penalties

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

  • First-degree offenses. First-degree vehicular homicide is a felony. Generally, convicted motorist face three to 15 years in prison. However, offenders who commit first-degree vehicular homicide as a habitual violator are looking at five to 20 years in prison. And for most first-degree vehicular homicide convictions, there's a three-year license revocation.
  • Second-degree offenses. Second-degree vehicular homicide is a misdemeanor. A conviction generally carries up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines.


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. And in many cases, the judge can "suspend" all or a portion of the sentence—meaning the defendant has to serve only the non-suspended part of the jail term.

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 vehicular homicide conviction involves serious consequences. 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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