An Oregon motorist who causes the death of another person while behind the wheel may be looking at criminal charges. Depending on the circumstances, a driving-related killing can result in a criminally negligent homicide, second-degree manslaughter, first-degree manslaughter, or aggravated vehicular homicide conviction.
This article explains how Oregon defines these offenses and the consequences of a conviction.
Criminally negligent homicide. A motorist who causes the death of another person while driving in a “criminally negligent” manner can be charged with criminally negligent homicide. Basically, a person acts with criminal negligence by unknowingly doing or failing to do something that creates a substantial risk to others. The person’s action or inaction must amount to a “gross deviation” from what a reasonable person would do under like circumstances.
Second-degree manslaughter. A motorist can be convicted of second-degree manslaughter for killing another person while driving in a reckless manner. Basically, a person acts recklessly by knowingly doing or failing to do something that creates a substantial risk to others. In other words, the person is aware of but disregards the dangerousness of the conduct. The person’s action or inaction must amount to a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would do under like circumstances.
First-degree manslaughter. A motorist can be convicted of first-degree manslaughter for killing another person while:
Aggravated vehicular homicide. A motorist can be convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide for causing the death of another person while in violation of the state’s DUI laws if the driver:
(Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 161.085, 163.118, 163.125, 163.145, 163.149 (2017).)
How Oregon Defines DUI
Oregon’s DUI laws prohibit driving while:
- having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (get an estimate of many drinks it takes), or
- “under the influence” of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two.
A person is considered “under the influence” if the person’s “physical or mental facilities are adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree.”
(Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 813.010 (2017); State v. Stroup, 147 Or. App. 118 (1997).)
The consequences of a driving-related killing depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties include:
(Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 161.625, 163.118, 163.125, 163.145, 163.147, 163.149 (2017); Or. Admin. R. 213-017-0002, 213-017-0004 (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. And the sentences discussed in this article are based on Oregon’s “sentencing guidelines.” Judges usually follow these guidelines. But in most cases, a judge is free to sentence a defendant to more or less time than what the guidelines specify.
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.
The consequences of killing another person while driving can be serious. If you’ve been arrested for a driving-related killing—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.