Vehicular manslaughter/homicide is one of the most serious crimes in Georgia. It can be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances, but both versions come with hefty penalties. That’s because they involve the loss of someone’s life.
There are certain situations where a vehicular manslaughter charge can be dropped or dismissed, but it usually requires a strong defense.
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in Georgia
The penalties for being charged with vehicular manslaughter/homicide in the State of Georgia depending on whether the charge is first- or second-degree:
First-Degree Vehicular Manslaughter
A driver can be charged with first-degree vehicular manslaughter in Georgia if a death results from reckless driving or driving under the influence (DUI).
Someone may also be charged with first-degree vehicular manslaughter if a death resulted from another serious driving offense like hit-and-run, driving with a revoked license as a “habitual violator,” or running from the police.
This charge is the more serious of the two; it is a felony and can come with the maximum penalties, including up to 15 years in prison or up to 20 years in prison per death for habitual violators.
Second-Degree Vehicular Manslaughter
A second-degree vehicular manslaughter/homicide charge results from a death caused by speeding, running a red light, distracted driving, or another traffic offense.
This is a misdemeanor charge and can result in up to a year in county jail per death or a maximum of $1,000 in fines.
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Situations Where Vehicular Manslaughter Might Be Dropped
In order for a driver to get vehicular manslaughter charges dropped, there must be a lack of factual innocence or sufficient evidence in the case. This typically means the defendant (driver accused of vehicular manslaughter) will have a legal defense trying to prove the driver was not at fault or negligent in the accident.
If there is insufficient evidence to show the accused driver was guilty of a DUI, for example, they can’t be charged with first-degree vehicular manslaughter. Here are some possible defense causes where a vehicular manslaughter charge could be dropped.
Lack of Probable Cause
When serious injury or death results from a car accident, anyone involved in the accident must submit to a chemical blood test for blood alcohol content (BAC)—even if they haven’t been arrested for DUI. However, the arresting officer still needs probable cause to believe that:
- The driver was under the influence when the accident happened and
- The death resulted from the accident
Under Georgia’s implied consent laws, anyone who applies for a driver’s license gives consent to chemical tests if there is suspicion of impairment. But the officer must read an implied consent warning notifying the driver that refusing to take the chemical test will lead to license suspension. If they don’t do this, the chemical test results may not be included as evidence in a trial.
Lack of Causation
The prosecution must be able to show the accused driver’s actions led to the victim’s death. If this cannot be demonstrated, the defense may claim there is a lack of causation linking the driver’s actions to the death.
If the legal defense for a drunk driver can’t get a vehicular manslaughter charge dropped altogether, they may try to negotiate a reduced charge. That could mean getting a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor or DUI reduced to reckless driving.
Family members of the person who lost their life can also sometimes impact the outcome of a case. For example, the judge may take their input or testimony into account when giving a sentence.
Certain loved ones can also bring a wrongful death suit against the at-fault driver. This could claim damages for the deceased lost because of the accident, including:
- Medical costs
- Funeral costs
- Lost wages
- Mental and physical pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- And more
A wrongful death lawyer can help the family of the deceased make a claim for these damages.
Did You Lose a Loved One in a Car Accident in Georgia?
If someone loses their life due to the negligent actions of another driver, that driver should be held responsible for what they did. For more than two decades, John Foy & Associates has been helping car accident victims and their families seek compensation for accidents they didn’t cause. Although financial recovery can never make up for the loss of life, we’ve found it can remove some of the financial burdens and help family members move on from the accident.
We can help you compile the evidence needed to file a wrongful death claim or sue the at-fault driver for the suffering they’ve caused. To get a FREE consultation with one of our experienced and compassionate lawyers, call us today at 404-400-4000 or fill out the short form on this page. We’ll go over the details of what happened and how we can help. Call today to get started with your free consultation.