In Oklahoma, causing the death of another person while behind the wheel can lead to serious criminal charges. This article covers Oklahoma's vehicular homicide and manslaughter laws and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.
Oklahoma has two general categories of vehicle-related killings: negligent vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter.
A motorist can be charged with "negligent homicide" (also called "vehicular homicide") for causing the death of another person while driving in "reckless disregard of the safety of others." (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 47, § 11-903.)
Reckless disregard. Basically, a person acts with reckless disregard for the safety of others by neglecting to do something a reasonably careful person would do or failing to exercise the degree of caution that a prudent person would under like circumstances.
Causation. A driver can be convicted of negligent homicide only if there's proof that the reckless driving was a legal cause of the death. It's not enough to merely show the defendant drove recklessly and someone died—there needs to be a direct link between the defendant's driving and the death.
Timing of the death. To be guilty of negligent homicide, the victim doesn't have to die right away. Oklahoma's negligent homicide law applies if the victim dies within a year of the accident.
Where a DUI (driving under the influence) offense results in the death of another person, the driver can face first-degree manslaughter charges. Oklahoma defines first-degree manslaughter as causing the death of another person while "while engaged in the commission of a misdemeanor." (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 711.) Because a DUI is a misdemeanor, DUIs involving a death qualify as first-degree manslaughter.
The consequences of a vehicular homicide or manslaughter conviction dependent on the circumstances. However, the possible penalties for these offenses are explained below.
Negligent homicide is a misdemeanor in Oklahoma. Convicted motorists face up to a year in jail and/or a maximum of $1,000 in fines. The fine is doubled if the driver has been convicted of another traffic violation in the three years prior to the negligent homicide offense. All motorists convicted of negligent homicide must complete a driver improvement or defensive driving class. And the conviction also results in a one-year license suspension.
Generally, a DUI manslaughter conviction is a felony and carries at least four years in prison.
A negligent homicide conviction comes with serious consequences. 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.