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.
The consequences of a driving-so-as-to-endanger-resulting-in-death conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, a conviction is a felony and 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.
Where a DWI (driving while intoxicated) results in the death of another person, the driver faces five to 15 years in prison, $5,000 to $10,000 in fines, and a five-year license revocation.
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.