Q: My son has been charged with vehicular homicide for an accident in which his friend was killed. How can he defend himself?

A: Whenever a person dies as a result of a car accident—whether that person was the driver of one of the vehicles, a passenger, or a pedestrian—the authorities conduct a rigorous investigation. In most cases, the accident is deemed to be just that—an accident, whether it was caused by unsafe road conditions, improperly functioning equipment, or just plain bad luck.

Matters are much more serious, though, if a police investigation reveals that one of the drivers involved in the accident was driving either negligently or with “gross and wanton disregard for life.” In the case of your son, that may be because he was talking on his cell phone at the time of the accident, under the influence of drugs, or found to have a blood-alcohol level exceeding the legal limit (for a person under the age of 21, this limit is 0.02 percent—the equivalent of consuming one beer before getting behind the wheel of a car.) It doesn't matter to the district attorney that the person killed was an occupant of your son's vehicle; that still rises to the standard of vehicular homicide.

The good news is that, except in the most flagrant cases, a district attorney will usually be open to pleading down a vehicular homicide charge to felony or misdemeanor reckless driving. That's why, if you or someone in your family has been charged with vehicular homicide in the state of Virginia, you should contact an experienced defense attorney from Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC as soon as possible.