Vehicular homicide, which is also known as vehicular manslaughter, in considered a moving violation and a serious crime in most states. In general, vehicular homicide involves a person’s death that is the result of the a driver’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle, or more so the result from operating a vehicle while committing some unlawful act that may not necessarily amount to a felony. In the United States Model Penal Code, there is no special distinction between just a vehicular homicide and a vehicular homicide that also involves negligence. Both vehicular homicides fall within the overall category of a negligent homicide.
All states except Alaska, Arizona, and Montana have specific vehicular homicide statutes. The laws pertaining to vehicular homicide have the legal effect of calling a vehicle a potentially dangerous and deadly weapon, which allows for more severe penalties and easier convictions. In states that do not have statutes regarding vehicular homicide, defendants may still be charged with manslaughter or even murder depending on the situations. The victim of a vehicular homicide can either be a person who is not in the vehicle with the offending driver, for example a pedestrian, another motorist, or a cyclist, or the victim can be the passenger in the motor vehicle with the offending driver.
Motor Vehicles Involved in a Vehicular Homicide
A vehicular homicide occurs when a motor vehicle is used as the tool or instrument which causes a person’s death. Usually, the term “motor vehicle” includes all vehicles that are used and designed to mainly transport property and people on public roads and highways. The vehicle is also self-propelled and does not require manpower as a power source. Following this definition, motor vehicles that are involved in a vehicular homicide can include:
• Passenger vehicles
• Vans or mini-vans
• Sport utility vehicles
• Trucks, such as pickup trucks or commercial trucks
Depending on the states, airplanes and motorboats may or may not be included within the definition of “motor vehicles” in regards to vehicular homicide. However, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, watercraft, skateboards, and farm tractors are usually not considered “motor vehicles” when dealing with vehicular homicide.
Sentencing for Vehicular Homicide by State
Because the statutes and sentencing for vehicular homicide vary by state, here is a quick breakdown by state of the potential fines and time spent in prison for a vehicular homicide. Note that these can vary due to the circumstances, for example if alcohol or drugs were involved.
• Alabama: 1 to 10 years, penalties between $500 and $15,000.
• Alaska: 1 to 99 years, case law states that vehicular homicide can be criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter, or second-degree murder, depending on the risk created and level of awareness.
• Arizona: No statutes, by negligent homicide (1 to 8 years), manslaughter (7 to 21 years) or second degree murder (10 to 22 years) may apply.
• Arkansas: 5 to 20 years, classifies as a negligent homicide with fines not exceeding $15,000.
• California: 0 to 10 years and up to $10,000.
• Colorado: 2 to 6 years and $2,000 to $500,000.
• Connecticut: 1 to 10 years, up to $10,000.
• Delaware: 1 to 5 years, time spent depends on if the vehicular homicide is a first degree offense or a second degree offense.
• Florida: 0 to 15 years, up to $10,000.
• Georgia: 0 to 20 years, depending on severity of offense and whether or not the person is a habitual offender.
• Hawaii: 0 to 10 years and up to $25,000 depending on degree of negligent homicide.
• Idaho: 0 to 15 years, and up to 15,000 for vehicular manslaughter.
• Illinois: 1 to 28 years and up to $25,000, no probation offered unless extraordinary circumstances exist.
• Indiana: 2 to 20 years, up to $10,000, depends on offense and blood alcohol content.
• Iowa: 1 to 25 years.
• Kansas: 0 to 172 months and fees of up to $300,000 depending on severity and whether alcohol or drugs were involved.
• Kentucky: 0 to 10 years and up to 10,000 depending on severity of the vehicular homicide.
• Louisiana: 3 to 30 years and from $2,000 to $15,000.
• Maine: 6 months to10 year, between $2,100 and $20,000.
• Maryland: 0 to 5 years, no more than $5,000.
• Massachusetts: 30 days to 15 years, depends on if there is negligence or recklessness, between $300 and $3,000.
• Michigan: 0 to 20 years, between $2,500 and $10,000.
• Minnesota: 0 to 10 years and up to $20,000 for grossly negligent behavior or DUI.
• Mississippi: 5 to 25 years and up to $1,000.
• Missouri: 0 to 15 years, depends on class of felony.
• Montana: No official vehicular homicide statute but 0 – 30 years and no more than $50,000.
• Nebraska: 1 to 50 years, up to $25,000.
• Nevada: 2 to 25 years, fees between $2,000 and $5,000, depends on if it was a DUI and any prior offenses, imprisonment for life is possible.
• New Hampshire: 0 to 15 years, up to $4,000.
• New Jersey: 5 to 10 years, no more than $150,000.
• New Mexico: 0 to 6 years, no more than $5,000 for third degree felony.
• New York: 0 to 15 years, no more than $15,000 depending on degree of manslaughter.
• North Carolina: 15 months to 40 years, depends on whether it is a felony, aggravated felony, or repeat felony.
• North Dakota: Up to 10 years and up to $10,000 can be classified as murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide.
• Ohio: 1 to 15 years, up to $15,000, can be classified as aggravated vehicular homicide or involuntary manslaughter
• Oklahoma: 0 to 1 year, between $100 and $1,000.
• Oregon: 0 to 20 years, up to $375,000.
• Pennsylvania: 0 to 10 years, up to $25,000.
• Rhode Island: 5 to 25 years, up to $20,000 depending on offense.
• South Carolina: 1 to 25 years, between $10,100 and $25,100.
• South Dakota: 0 to 15 years, up to $30,000.
• Tennessee: 80 to 60 years, up to $50,000 depending on whether it is a vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide.
• Texas: 2 to 20 years, up to $10,000.
• Utah: 0 to 15 years and up to $10,000 depending on degree of felony
• Vermont: 1 to 15 years and up to $10,000.
• Virginia: 1 to 20 years, up to $2,500.
• Washington: 31 months to 177 months, or life imprisonment depending on circumstances, no more than $50,000.
• West Virginia: 90 days to 10 years, up to $3,000.
• Wisconsin: 0 to 40 years, up to $100,000.
• Wyoming: 0 to 20 years for the felony.