In Utah, a person can be convicted of “automobile homicide” (sometimes called “vehicular homicide”) for causing the death of another person while driving in a negligent or criminally negligent manner and:
Negligence (“simple negligence”) and criminal negligence. An automobile homicide conviction requires proof that the driver was at least negligent. And more severe penalties apply if the driver was criminally negligent. A person acts with simple negligence by failing to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would under like circumstances. With criminal negligence, the defendant not only fails to exercise reasonable care, but also acts in a way that poses a substantial risk to others—the degree and nature of the risk being substantial enough so that the failure to perceive it amounts to a gross deviation from what a prudent person would have done.
Under the influence. For purposes of the automobile homicide statute, “under the influence” means the person had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more or was impaired by drugs or alcohol to a degree that rendered the person incapable of driving safely.
Illegal cellphone or wireless device use. Generally, Utah law prohibits using a cellphone or wireless device to write, send, or read a written communication. The prohibition includes text messages, email, dialing a phone number, and viewing and recording videos. (Read more about Utah’s law restricting wireless device use while driving.)
Causation. A motorist can’t be convicted of automobile homicide unless there’s proof that the motorist’s driving was a legal cause of the death. In other words, there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s driving and the death.
(Utah Code Ann. § § 76-2-103, 76-5-207, 76-5-207.5 (2017).)
The consequences of a Utah automobile homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. But the possible penalties are:
All drivers convicted of automobile homicide are looking at least a one-year license revocation.
(Utah Code Ann. § § 53-3-220, 53-3-225, 76-3-203, 76-3-301 (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.
Automobile homicide is a serious criminal charge that can result in a long prison sentence. If you’ve been arrested for automobile 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.