Most states use the terms "vehicular manslaughter" or "vehicular homicide." In North Carolina, the offense is called "death by vehicle." This article covers North Carolina's death-by-vehicle laws and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.
North Carolina defines "felony death-by-vehicle" as unintentionally causing the death of another person while impaired in violation of the state's DWI (driving while impaired) laws.
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.
"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 texting while driving, speeding, or reckless driving.
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.
The consequences of a death-by-vehicle conviction depend on the circumstances. However, the possible penalties for each classification are explained below.
Misdemeanor death-by-vehicle is a class A1 misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to 150 days in jail and fines in an amount deemed appropriate by the judge.
Felony death-by-vehicle is a class D felony. Convicted motorists face 38 to 160 months in prison and fines in an amount deemed appropriate by the judge.
A motorist who commits felony death-by-vehicle and has a prior DWI conviction is guilty of "aggravated felony death-by-vehicle," a class D felony. A conviction carries 64 to 160 months in prison and fines in an amount deemed appropriate by the judge.
All motorists convicted of death-by-vehicle face license revocation for at least a year.
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.