North Carolina defines “felony death-by-vehicle” as unintentionally causing the death of another person while in violation of the state’s DWI (driving while impaired) laws. “Misdemeanor death-by-vehicle,” on the other hand, involves causing the death of another person while committing a traffic violation other than DWI, such as speeding or reckless driving.
Impairment. North Carolina law defines “impairment” as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, having any amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the body, or being appreciably impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Causation. A motorist can’t be convicted of death-by-vehicle unless there’s proof that the motorist’s impairment or traffic violation was a legal cause of the death. In other words, there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s unlawful driving and the death.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § § 20-138.1, 20-141.4 (2017); State v. Lee, 237 N.C. 263 (1953).)
The consequences of a death-by-vehicle conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:
All motorists convicted of death-by-vehicle face license revocation of at least a year.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § § 15A-1340.17, 15A-1340.23, 20-17, 20-19, 20-141.4 (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.
Death-by-vehicle is a serious criminal charge. If you’ve been arrested for death-by-vehicle—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.