In the Commonwealth, a Driver Can Be Charged With Attempted Vehicular Manslaughter if a Car Accident Is Fatal
Drivers who unintentionally cause accidents that result in the deaths of passengers, occupants of other cars, or pedestrians may be charged with the crime of vehicular manslaughter. This can occur even for someone who was not driving the vehicle. Attempted vehicular manslaughter charges can be either a misdemeanor or felony charges depending on whether the driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs, and the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.
Being charged with motor vehicle homicide is an overwhelming and deeply upsetting experience. You need an experienced lawyer on your side right away.
If you or a loved one has been charged with attempted vehicular manslaughter, contact Murphy & Rudolf, LLP today to discuss your situation:
What Qualifies as Attempted Vehicular Manslaughter?
In order to be convicted of vehicular manslaughter, a jury must believe that the driver acted recklessly. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant acted unreasonably in the situation – that is, differently than someone would be expected to behave in the same circumstances. This implies consciously ignoring risks and engaging in some form of unwarranted behavior.
“Unwarranted behavior” includes driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. This can be proven by eyewitness testimony, self-incriminating statements, or chemical evidence such as a breath test.
In Massachusetts, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater. For those under the age of 21, the Massachusetts RMV will suspend your license for operating a motor vehicle with a .02% BAC or higher. But even if the reading is lower, prosecutors can meet the applicable negligence standard by providing evidence of the driving itself, in conjunction with the ingestion of drugs or alcohol.
Negligent or reckless driving will also support attempted vehicular manslaughter charges. In this case, the law requires proof that the person was driving in a way that put the lives of others at high risk. This often happens when a driver is violating a safety rule, such as passing in a “no passing” zone; driving beyond the posted speed limit; or performing illegal U-turns.
What Are Some Common Defense Strategies?
One common defense against attempted vehicular manslaughter is to argue for the exclusion of certain evidence. This may be because law enforcement didn’t follow the proper procedures for the collection of this evidence. Exclusion can also be argued if the evidence was obtained under a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
A defendant may also argue that a pre-existing medical condition or emergency impaired their driving, instead of intoxication or negligent driving. Evidence of a medical claim can undermine the prosecution’s claim that the defendant was under the influence of intoxicants. However, a decision to drive is still considered reckless if the defendant chooses to drive despite a known medical condition that may impair their abilities.
If you are facing attempted vehicular manslaughter charges, you will want an attorney who understands Massachusetts state laws and can help you formulate a defense. If you feel you weren’t acting negligently and are innocent, you need an attorney to help prove the facts of your case. It’s best to seek realistic, helpful advice from an experienced attorney who understands how your local courts operate.