In Rhode Island, a motorist who kills another person while driving “in reckless disregard of the safety of others” can be charged with a crime called “driving so as to endanger, resulting in death” (also referred to as “vehicular homicide”).
Reckless disregard. As used in the statute, “reckless disregard” means the motorist drove in a manner that posed an unreasonable risk of harm to others and the motorist was or should have been aware of the risk. Generally, an honest mistake or error in judgment doesn't qualify as reckless disregard—it needs to be a fairly extreme and obvious instance of dangerous driving. In deciding whether a person’s driving amounts to reckless disregard, a judge or jury might consider factors like whether the person was speeding, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or in violation of the state’s distracted driving laws.
Causation. A motorist can’t be convicted of driving so as to endanger, resulting in death unless there’s proof that the motorist’s reckless driving was a legal cause of the death. In other words, there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s bad driving and the death.
(Also, read about Rhode Island’s reckless driving penalties for offenses that didn’t result in the death of another person.)
(31 R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 31-27-1 (2017); State v. Lunt, 106 R.I. 379 (1969).)
The consequences of a driving-so-as-to-endanger-resulting-in-death conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, a conviction carries up to ten years in prison and a maximum five-year license suspension. And convicted drivers might also have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicles once their license is reinstated.
(31 R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § § 31-27-1, 31-27-2.8 (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.
Driving-so-as-to-endanger-resulting-in-death is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. 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.