What Your Charges Might Be if You Kill Someone with a Car

Posted on: 4 May 2018

It was an accident. You did not intentionally kill someone with your car (even thought lots of other people have). You did not even know the victims. It was just an accident.

There is just one problem with that. There are still people who cannot go home tonight nor wake up the next day. Their surviving family members will likely be angry and grieving. You are charged with their deaths, but the charges do not make sense. If you have been in an auto accident and you're at-fault, here are some of the charges you'll face.

Vehicular Manslaughter

In most cases and in almost all states, vehicular manslaughter means the accidental killing of other human beings by crashing into or running over them. For the most part, is the least charge available, given that you still have to answer for the deaths of the victims. You can expect to receive as little as one year to as much as a life sentence for vehicular manslaughter, based on the state in which the offense took place and the number of lives lost. Your lawyer will attempt to get the least amount of time possible, but the sentence is ultimately up to the judge.

Second Degree and First Degree Homicides

In states like Georgia, there is no vehicular manslaughter. The law simply acknowledges that the vehicle in question was used as a weapon to kill someone else; no different than a knife or a gun. Oddly enough, they have second degree homicides with the use of a vehicle as the weapon and first degree homicides. The second degree homicides are actually considered misdemeanors, resulting in much gentler punishments than one might expect. The first degree homicides rarely stick in an accident case because the prosecution has to prove that you intentionally struck others with your vehicle with an intent to maim or kill. 

Homicides Only When Drugs and Alcohol Are Present

There are a few more states where killing someone accidentally with your car will only get you into serious trouble if you are found driving under the influence. The assumption is that your compromised judgement allowed you to cast off your inhibitions and do what you thought of doing when you were sober. Hence, under the influence, you did what you always wanted to do. Given this line of reasoning in these particular states, the charges against you are always homicide-related, not manslaughter. 

States Where Mans Rea Has to Be Proved First

The intent to kill is known in legal circles as mans rea. It has to be proven in court that you were of the mindset that you intended to kill others with your car. You are typically charged with felony homicide with your vehicle and you stand trial regardless of the fact that you were in an accident and had no intent at all. It is the burden of the plaintiff or district attorney to prove that you not only had intent, but that you also had previous leanings toward harming others. 

Additionally, some states can charge you with the death of an infant in uterus. If the mother of your baby is killed while you are attempting to rectify or reconciliate, that could alter your charges to include the death of the unborn child. Maximum sentences could really add up quickly in these states when unborn babies are counted among the deceased.

Cases like these can be very upsetting and therefore pretty difficult to work through on your own. To navigate this and other cases, contact a local vehicular accident attorney. They can give you advice on how to specifically approach your options.