In Hawaii, if you cause the death of another person while behind the wheel, you could be looking at serious criminal charges. This article covers Hawaii's vehicular homicide laws and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.
Hawaii has three degrees of "negligent homicide" (sometimes called "vehicular homicide").
First-degree negligent homicide involves causing the death of:
another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or
a "vulnerable user" while driving in a "negligent" manner.
"Vulnerable users" include pedestrians lawfully on the street or public highway, road and emergency workers engaged in work on a street or public highway, persons on bicycles and mopeds, and persons in wheelchairs.
Second-degree negligent homicide is defined as causing the death of:
another person while driving in a negligent manner, or
a vulnerable user while driving in a manner that constitutes "simple negligence."
The difference between first, second, and third-degree negligent homicide can come down to whether the motorist drove with "simple negligence" or "negligence." A person acts with simple negligence by doing or failing to do something that the person should know poses a risk to others. The law assumes a person "should know" of a risk if a law-abiding person under like circumstances would have been aware of the risk. A person acts with negligence, on the other hand, by doing or failing to do something that the person should know poses a "substantial and unjustifiable" risk to others—the degree and nature of the risk being substantial enough so that the failure to perceive it amounts to a gross deviation from what a law-abiding person would have done under like circumstances.
Third-degree negligent homicide is where a motorist kills another person while driving in a manner amounting to simple negligence.
The consequences of a negligent homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. However, the possible penalties for each type of vehicular homicide are described below.
First-degree negligent homicide is a class B felony. A conviction carries up to ten years in prison and a maximum of $25,000 in fines.
Second-degree negligent homicide is a class C felony. Convicted motorists face up to five years in prison and a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
Third-degree negligent homicide is a third-degree misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum of $2,000 in fines.
All drivers convicted of first- or second-degree negligent homicide face license revocation. The length of revocation is determined by the sentencing judge.
Negligent homicide is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. If you've been arrested for negligent 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.