Although all DUI / DWI charges can bring severe consequences, those that involve the death of a passenger, someone in another vehicle, or a bystander are extremely serious. A drunk driving episode that results in death is typically charged as second-degree murder, manslaughter, or vehicular homicide.
Vehicular homicide in the context of a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) refers to ordinary negligence, and is a “wobbler” – a charge that can be brought as either a felony or a misdemeanor, although it is most often charged as a felony. A vehicular homicide conviction carries substantial consequences, particularly if it is charged as a felony – the defendant may face a prison sentence if convicted. An experienced California DUI / DWI attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to reach a plea bargain that reduces a felony to a misdemeanor.
Independent investigation by the driver’s defense team is extremely important when fighting a charge of vehicular homicide. Police and prosecutors will investigate every aspect of the accident to gather evidence that will point to the defendant’s guilt. An attorney who focuses on drunk driving defense will employ independent investigators to conduct forensic research and reconstruct the accident to uncover evidence that points to the defendant’s innocence.
Independent experts also will investigate factors of the underlying DUI charge, such as the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the accident. Because chemical tests are usually conducted hours after an accident, the driver’s BAC may have been inflated if his or her body continued to absorb alcohol after the crash. An independent expert’s investigation may show that the driver’s BAC was not .08 percent or greater at the time of the accident.
The penalty for a vehicular homicide conviction can be severe – the defendant can be sentenced to prison. If the driver has prior convictions for drunk driving, he or she can be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Because the consequences are so harsh, it’s imperative to have excellent legal representation. A California lawyer who focuses on drunk driving defense can evaluate each case and devise an aggressive defense that will minimize negative consequences.