Manslaughter occurs when a person unintentionally causes another person’s death. Some states have a separate criminal charge called DWI manslaughter or DUI manslaughter. In North Carolina, when drug use or alcohol intoxication results in a victim’s death, the defendant may face vehicular manslaughter charges. Vehicular manslaughter includes more than drunk and drugged driving. Instead, vehicular manslaughter occurs when the driver kills another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or while engaged in a violation of state or local driving laws.
Contact a DWI Manslaughter Lawyer in North Carolina
Vehicular manslaughter is among the most serious crimes in North Carolina. If you’ve been charged with vehicular manslaughter in North Carolina due to intoxicated driving, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we have successfully represented many clients in DWI vehicular manslaughter cases. Contact the skilled criminal defense lawyers at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation.
The Difference Between Voluntary, Involuntary, and Vehicular Manslaughter
Manslaughter charges still involve causing another innocent person’s death, but they are different than murder charges. Many states only recognize two different types of manslaughter charges: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another person, but it’s done when the defendant was provoked. In many cases, voluntary manslaughter is referred to as a “heat of passion” crime.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the defendant’s reckless or negligent actions caused the killing of an innocent person. In an involuntary manslaughter case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant killed another person by an unlawful act that isn’t a felony and isn’t typically dangerous to a person’s life. Alternatively, the prosecutor can prove that the defendant caused another person’s death by a culpably negligent act or omission.
Unlike many other states, North Carolina recognizes a third type of manslaughter offense called vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter involves death caused by motor vehicle accidents. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant killed another human being while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when engaged in a violation of state or local driving laws.
Vehicular manslaughter is not a murder charge because the driver didn’t intend to kill another person. Instead, vehicular manslaughter occurs when the driver ultimately kills another person while driving in an illegal manner. Examples of situations in which a driver can face vehicular manslaughter charges include:
- Reckless driving
- Running a red light
- DUI and DWI
- Drowsy driving
- Aggressive driving
- Texting or talking on a cell phone while driving
- Other types of distracted driving
The Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in North Carolina
Prosecutors in North Carolina can choose to charge a defendant with misdemeanor or felony vehicular manslaughter. The circumstances of the crime and whether the defendant has any other criminal convictions on his or her record will influence whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony charge. The penalties for vehicular manslaughter depend on the factors in the case. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor level vehicular manslaughter, you will face penalties for a Class A1 misdemeanor, including a jail sentence of up to 150 days and a fine set by the judge.
Suppose you’ve been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter. In that case, you’re facing a Class D felony. In North Carolina, a Class D felony conviction can result in a prison sentence between 38 and 120 months and a fine to be determined by the judge. Finally, if you’ve already been convicted of a DWI in North Carolina, the prosecutor can bring aggravated felony charges against you. The penalties for aggravated vehicular manslaughter include a prison sentence between 64 and 160 months and a fine to be determined by the judge.
Defenses Against DWI Manslaughter Charges in North Carolina
As with any criminal charge, the legal defenses will depend on the facts of your unique case. However, there are several common legal defenses for vehicular manslaughter cases. If you’ve been charged with a vehicular manslaughter case based on alcohol intoxication, your lawyer may be able to dispute the intoxication element. Experienced criminal defense lawyers know how to challenge all of the following:
- The observations of the police officer at the scene of the car accident
- The administration of field sobriety tests
- The accuracy of the breathalyzer test or blood draw
- The police officer’s compliance with the law
Working with an experienced vehicular manslaughter lawyer is crucial to defend against the criminal charges you’re facing. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we have a firm understanding of the science behind blood and breath alcohol testing. We will investigate your case and determine any discrepancies or unlawful use of alcohol testing. We also have an in-depth understanding of constitutional law, especially related to the searches and seizures that control DWI cases in North Carolina.
Causation is another crucial aspect in vehicular manslaughter cases. The prosecution cannot convict you unless they prove that your intoxication, drug use, or other unlawful behavior caused the car accident that resulted in the victim’s death. Just because a person’s death occurred in a car accident doesn’t mean that the driver’s intoxication caused the accident. In many cases, we work with accident reconstruction experts who will examine the case and educate the jury about the cause of the victim’s death and whether the victim may have contributed or been exclusively at fault for the car accident.
Discuss Your Case With a DWI Manslaughter Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with vehicular manslaughter in North Carolina, it’s crucial that you take these charges seriously and act accordingly. Prosecutors can charge vehicular manslaughter as a felony, which is a serious criminal offense. If you are convicted, you may be sentenced to multiple years in prison, lose your driver’s license, and face other consequences involved in your professional and personal life. Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule your initial consultation and learn more about how we can protect your rights.
Hancock Law Firm serves residents in Beaufort, Morehead City, and throughout all of Carteret County.