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What constitutes vehicular manslaughter?

by | May 24, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Most traffic infractions are minor. Police officers can pull people over for something as simple as a burned-out light bulb or making a rolling stop at an otherwise unoccupied intersection. A police officer may issue someone a ticket, and that ticket might also affect someone’s insurance rate. For the most part, however, the matter is minor.

Other traffic infractions might actually lead to someone’s arrest and prosecution. For example, both reckless driving and drunk driving can lead to actual criminal charges and sometimes incarceration as a penalty. But perhaps the most serious possible driving-related offense is vehicular manslaughter.

Fatal crashes lead to vehicular manslaughter charges

Driving is an activity that comes with some inherent risks. It is always possible for someone to turn a corner and encounter a drunk driver or for a dog to run out into the road unexpectedly. Therefore, motorists need to remain carefully aware of their surroundings and compliant with traffic laws.

People habitually violate traffic laws without considering the consequences, and many people also engage in behaviors that are negligent if even if not technically illegal. If someone broke a traffic statute or did something unsafe and then caused a crash where someone died, the state could prosecute them for vehicular manslaughter.

Both Missouri and Illinois have statutes allowing for prosecution in scenarios where someone’s bad choices in traffic directly contribute to another person dying. There are certain factors that could exacerbate vehicular manslaughter. For example, a driver who targets a law enforcement professional in Missouri could face a higher category charge. Illinois has multiple aggravating factors, including laws that apply when the person who dies is a child.

There is more than one perspective in any situation

Even in a scenario where there are certain undeniable facts, how people perceive the matter is somewhat subjective. It may be an undeniable fact that specific people were involved in the collision and that one of them died. However, what led up to the collision and where the fault actually lies could differ from the current story the prosecutor wants to build.

Seeking legal guidance concerning vehicular homicide charges will be critical for those who are hoping to fight back when facing criminal consequences after a fatal collision.