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Vehicular Homicide

If you have been charged with vehicular homicide in Georgia and you were under the influence of prescription medication when you were driving you do have a unique defense available to you that many lawyers in Georgia will sometimes overlook.  For starters, Georgia law does not punish you for mistake or an accident.  Meaning, if you are prescribed prescription medicine and drive after you took prescription medication you may be excused in your conduct through excusable ignorance.  There are several factors the jury will consider, but in my experience, you have to meet several criteria to have a more robust defense.  First, you have to be taking the drugs pursuant to a lawful prescription.  Second, you will need to be within therapeutic limits – meaning taking the drug as prescribed.  It doesn’t do good if you are prescribed 5 mg of a drug and you are taking three times the amount.  Third, your doctor or pharmacist told you not to drive after taking the medication.  Similarly, if your prescription bottle displays a warning of ‘do not drive under this prescription’ then you should not drive and your defense of accident or mistake is seriously weakened.  Fourth, it should be a newer prescription.  Why is this important?  It means you are unfamiliar with the reaction your body and/or mind has when taking the prescription medicine.

As mentioned, once you have been charged with Vehicular Homicide in Georgia and you are taking a medication as prescribed and the jury believes you did so through not knowing any better you can be excused from the criminal act.  Yes, nobody likes excuses – especially a jury – but if you truly did not have the intent to become impaired or did not know the effects of consuming a prescription medicine, Georgia law protects you.  It is important to understand the difference between justification and excuse.  Justification means you intended the act and consequences that stem from the act but you were justified.  An example may be self-defense where you shot and killed someone trying to kill you.  Excuse is where it is not justified, but excusable because of what is transpiring in your mind.  A top highly experienced Georgia criminal defense lawyer can explain this to a jury.

Vehicular Homicide Charges in Georgia

Vehicular Homicide in Georgia is a tragic crime that carries harsh consequences.  When someone dies as the result of a traffic infraction, the result is a vehicular homicide criminal case.

Vehicular homicide can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. Vehicular Homicide in the 1st degree is when someone who, without malice aforethought, causes the death of an individual while at the same time committing other certain offenses. These offenses, below, coupled with the death of an individual, will upgrade the charge to a felony:

  • Passing a school bus
  • DUI
  • Reckless Driving
  • Fleeing or attempting to elude
  • Hit and Run
  • While license is suspended due to Habitual Violator Status

Misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide, known as Vehicle Homicide in the 2nd degree, is defined by causing the death of another, without an intention to do so, while violating any other traffic offense in Title 40. (See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-393). These traffic violations may include, for example, failure to maintain lane, running a red light, improper turn, or speeding. Any traffic offense (other than the ones in the bullet points above), which causes the death of another, will result in a Vehicular Homicide charge in the 2nd degree.

In both felony and misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide cases, Georgia law requires that the State prove that the driver’s conduct was a substantial factor in the “proximate cause” of the death.  This means that under Georgia law, sometimes the victim’s own negligence will not be relevant. This is where the defense can lie. Vehicular homicide cases involve intensive investigation phases for the Defense.  The defense may need accident reconstruction experts to quickly determine how and why an accident occurred.

What is the sentence if convicted of Vehicular Homicide?

On a felony Vehicular Homicide, the sentence carried 3 to 15 years in prison on this one charge. If, for example, there were also convictions for misdemeanor offenses, like speeding, from the same accident, the Judge could sentence those consecutively making the prison time much longer.

If convicted of a Vehicular Homicide in the 2nd degree, it is a misdemeanor offense, and the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail and/or a base fine of $1,000.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services will also act to suspend your license on a conviction for Vehicular Homicide. If convicted of a misdemeanor homicide by vehicle, Georgia will suspend your license for a minimum period of 120 days. On a misdemeanor, a limited permit may be available. On a felony homicide by vehicle conviction, Georgia will suspend your license for a period of three years.

If you or a loved one has been charged with Vehicular Homicide anywhere in the State of Georgia, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999. The team of attorneys at W. Scott Smith PC are ready to aggressively defend you in your utmost time of need.