In Virginia, a Car Accident Involving a Fatality Can Lead to a Charge of Vehicular Homicide

Whenever a traffic accident results in a fatality—either to the operator of another vehicle, a passenger in either vehicle, or a pedestrian—the potential always exists for one of the drivers to be charged with vehicular homicide. Virginia district attorneys are most likely to file this charge when the driver responsible for the accident can be shown to have operated his vehicle recklessly or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but it's not unusual to incur this charge for an act as simple as running a red light. That's why, if you have been charged with vehicular homicide, you need the help of an experienced lawyer from Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC.

The Penalties for a Vehicular Homicide Conviction Are Extremely Serious

In the state of Virginia, vehicular homicide is classified as a felony, meaning that its repercussions are much more serious than a simple misdemeanor. The key issue at sentencing is whether the fatal accident was caused by simple negligence (say, texting on your cell phone and not paying attention to traffic), or “gross or wanton disregard for life” (e.g., running a red light with a measured blood-alcohol level of 0.20 percent).

In the best possible cases, a conviction for vehicular manslaughter can land you in jail for one or two years (though these sentences are often suspended, subject to probation, and possibly reparations), as well as stiff fines amounting to thousands of dollars. Vehicular manslaughter committed in the context of another felony (like drunk driving) can result in the judge “throwing the book” at you; depending on the circumstances of the accident and your prior record, you may be looking at 20 years in prison.

An Experienced Lawyer Can Often Plead Down a Vehicular Homicide Charge to Something Less Serious

One little-known fact about vehicular homicide is that this charge is often invoked when a district attorney wants to play “hardball” with a defense lawyer. That is, the circumstances of the accident may not quite rise to the standard of vehicular homicide, but the DA still wants to secure a conviction—so he negotiates with the defense lawyer to plead down the vehicular homicide charge to, say, felony reckless driving. (This is much less likely to happen, though, when true “wanton disregard” is involved.)

If you have been charged with vehicular homicide stemming from a traffic accident, the first thing you need to do is retain the services of a lawyer who is experienced in Virginia criminal and traffic law. At Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC, our lawyers will aggressively fight your vehicular manslaughter charge, with the goal of securing the best possible outcome for your case.