In Minnesota, causing the death of another person while driving can lead to serious criminal charges. This article covers Minnesota's vehicular homicide laws and the penalties for a conviction.
In Minnesota, a driver can be convicted of felony criminal vehicular homicide for causing the death of a person or unborn child as a result of operating a vehicle:
A motorist can also be convicted of vehicular manslaughter for causing a fatal collision and leaving the scene, in violation of the hit-and-run law.
The term "gross negligence" means extreme negligence or acting without the slightest care about the risk of harm to others. In other words, the driver is completely oblivious of his or her actions and what harm may result.
Although not as common, a driver can be charged with manslaughter resulting from the operation of a vehicle. There are two classifications of manslaughter: first-degree (voluntary) manslaughter and second-degree (involuntary) manslaughter. First-degree manslaughter is a 15-year felony and requires proof of intent to cause death. Second-degree manslaughter is a ten-year felony, similar to criminal vehicular homicide, but requires a higher standard of proof—"culpable negligence."
The consequences of a criminal vehicular homicide conviction depend on the offender's criminal history. Generally, the offense carries a maximum 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine. However, if the defendant committed a "qualified prior driving offense" within ten years of the current offense, the maximum penalty is raised to 15 years in prison.
A "qualified prior driving offense" includes:
Upon arrest for criminal vehicular homicide, a driver's license is immediately suspended. A conviction involving alcohol or drugs results in license revocation for six to ten years—depending on the person's past impaired driving record. All other criminal vehicular homicide convictions carry a ten-year revocation. There's a one-year wait period before a driver can apply for a limited license. (A limited license is to drive to and from places like work and substance abuse treatment.)
Criminal vehicular homicide is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. If you've been arrested for criminal 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.