Vehicular manslaughter comes with a punishment that can vary between 3 and 20 years in prison. However, the average prison sentence for vehicular manslaughter is just over 9 years.
Vehicular homicide, on the other hand, comes with a sentence that’s typically between 9 and 30 years. If you stay on the scene after the accident, you’re likely looking at a prison term of between 9 years and 3 months up to 15 years. If you flee the scene, though, your time in prison can be extended up to 30 years.
Which Factors Can Affect Your Time in Prison?
Per Florida statute§782.071, “vehicular homicide is the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.”
The primary difference between a vehicular manslaughter charge and a vehicular homicide charge is intent. Simply put, you’ll be charged with vehicular manslaughter if no intent to harm or kill was present. Vehicular homicide, meanwhile, shows that you intended to harm or kill someone during the commission of a crime.
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How Does Florida Define Vehicular Homicide?
Vehicular homicide is when one person kills another while driving a vehicle. To be hit with a vehicular homicide charge in Florida, the prosecutor has to prove that you intended to seriously harm or kill the other person.
Florida Statute 782.071: Vehicular Homicide Definition
As listed above, this statute outlines the meaning of vehicular homicide. If you kill another person or an unborn baby – and if you were driving in a reckless manner and/or intended to harm or kill them – you’ll be found guilty of vehicular homicide.
Florida Senate 782.071: Requirements for Vehicular Homicide
This charge includes a few specific things. First off, the person being charged must be guilty of a felony in the first or second degree. Additionally, the driver needs to know – or should have known – that an accident occurred, and they must fail to render aid, as shown in F.S.§316.062.
Collateral Issues in a Vehicular Homicide Case
When you’re charged with a vehicular homicide case, you’ll also run the risk of having other related civil cases filed against you, including wrongful death, personal injury, and negligence. Although these particular cases can’t add to your prison sentence, they can cause you to pay an extremely large amount of money.
The Penalties for Vehicular Homicide are Severe
Committing vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony. Due to Florida’s Statute§775.082, you can face up to 15 years in prison. However, there are exceptions. For instance, if you took off after a car accident, you can be charged with a first-degree felony, which can put you in prison for up to 30 years. It’s also important to note that you could receive up to 15 years of probation after the fact, along with up to $10,000 in fines.
Penalties for Causing Severe or Great Bodily Harm
Per Florida statute§316.027, the definition of serious bodily injury is “an injury to a person, including the driver, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”
If this definition fits your situation, you could also be looking at having your license suspended for up to 3 years and/or a minimum prison sentence of 4 years. This is in addition to the prison time for committing vehicular homicide.
Penalties for Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Manslaughter
The standard amount of time that you’ll spend in prison for vehicular homicide is between 9 and 30 years. The standard amount of time for a vehicular manslaughter charge is between 3 and 20 years. Again, keep in mind that homicide means you had intent, while manslaughter means you didn’t have intent.
Because of the differences in severity pointed out above, vehicular manslaughter comes with a 3-year minimum term, while vehicular homicide will see you going to prison for at least 9 years and 3 months. Therefore, if you’ve killed someone in a car accident, you will want to do everything in your power to be charged with vehicular manslaughter instead of vehicular homicide.
Penalties for Fleeing the Scene of an Automobile Accident
Never flee the scene of an accident. It will cost you severely in the long run. For example, if you kill someone in a hit-and-run accident, you will be looking at an additional charge. Your judge can impose an extra 4 to 30 years, with 4 years being the minimum sentence. In total, your charges just for leaving the scene can be:
- Between 4 and 30 years in prison.
- Up to 30 years of probation.
- A fine of up to $10,000.
Technically, a person who is charged with vehicular homicide in a hit-and-run case can end up serving up to 60 years. Most cases won’t be this severe but imposing a 60-year prison term is within the judge’s rights.
Vehicular Homicide While Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol is a Felony Offense
According to Florida statute §316.193(1) and (3)(c)(3), a regular DUI becomes much more severe if someone gets killed. What would have been a misdemeanor becomes classified as a violent crime, which means it’s a felony. In brief, this means that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and you caused the death of another person.
Being charged with DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony. Charges may include:
- Up to 15 years in prison.
- Probation for up to 15 years.
- Fines of up to $10,000.
The mandatory minimum prison sentence is 4 years. It’s also possible that you’ll be facing:
- Driver’s license revocation.
- Vehicle impoundment.
- DUI alcohol/substance abuse program.
- Community service.
- A psychosocial evaluation.
Minimum Prison Sentence for Vehicular Manslaughter in Florida
Vehicular manslaughter comes with a minimum prison term of 3 years. Vehicular homicide, meanwhile, has a minimum prison sentence of 9 years and 3 months.
Maximum Prison Sentence for Vehicular Manslaughter in Florida
The maximum prison sentence for vehicular manslaughter is 20 years. For vehicular homicide, the maximum prison sentence is 30 years.
Average Prison Sentence for DUI Manslaughter in Florida
The average time that someone will be incarcerated for committing a DUI manslaughter is just under 10 years. The judge has the right to impose a sentence of up to 15 years.
Does the Driver Additionally Face Criminal Charges?
Yes, the driver in a vehicular manslaughter case will definitely face criminal charges. Of course, the prosecution will have to prove that:
- A person and/or an unborn child died.
- Their death was caused by the motor vehicle that you were driving.
- You were driving in a reckless manner.
In Florida, Can a Passenger be Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter?
According to Florida State statutes, the person who is charged with vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide must be operating a motor vehicle. However, this does not mean that you can’t be charged if you weren’t driving but caused the driver to become distracted, including pulling the wheel out of their hands.
How Florida Defines Vehicular Homicide
As noted, per Florida statute§782.071, “vehicular homicide is the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.”
Here are some definitions closely related to vehicular homicide that are important to know.
A driver can be charged with culpable negligence – also known as negligent driving – if they displayed conduct that shows they had a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
If a person was killed in the accident without any ill intent or malice, they’ll typically be charged with criminal negligence (AKA vehicular manslaughter).
Driving Under the Influence
A DWI (or DUI) charge – combined with a death – will come with a mandatory prison term of 4 years. A judge may sentence you to up to 30 years in prison, however, for killing someone while you were driving while intoxicated.
Violating a Safety Statute
Driving recklessly, violating traffic laws, driving with an improperly maintained vehicle, DUIs, and/or falling asleep at the wheel are all covered by a vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charge.
Dozing off at the Wheel
Florida doesn’t have any specific laws against driving while you’re sleepy. However, if you check the section above, you’ll see that falling asleep at the wheel is covered by a vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter charge.
Difference Between Vehicular Homicide and DUI Manslaughter
Being charged with DUI manslaughter means you’ll face a second-degree felony, per Florida Statue§ 316.193, and face up to 15 years in prison. A vehicular homicide charge, meanwhile, comes with a minimum sentence of 9 years and 3 months, but it can go up to 30 years if you flee the scene.
Vehicular Manslaughter vs. Gross Vehicular Manslaughter
An ordinary charge of vehicular manslaughter is a felony, but there are lesser penalties. It means that although it may have involved ordinary negligence (such as making a careless mistake), there wasn’t gross negligence such as a DUI. If you are given the choice to make a plea bargain, vehicular manslaughter is preferable to gross vehicular manslaughter.
What is Considered “Reckless Driving”?
Florida Statue§316.192 defines reckless driving as “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”
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Possible Defenses a Florida Car Accident Attorney Can Use
You do have some possible defenses against a vehicular homicide charge in Florida. First up is simple speeding. In other words, showing that your speeding wasn’t grossly excessive can help you beat a vehicular homicide case.
Other possible defenses include retrograde extrapolation (when too much time has passed to check you for alcohol or drugs), lack of gross negligence, lack of negligence, involuntary intoxication, insufficient evidence, mistaken identity, and causation.
Florida Court Defense Strategies for DUI Manslaughter Cases
Each of the following strategies may be used in your court case:
- Illegal search after a DUI stop.
- Miranda warning was not given.
- Violations of speedy trial.
- Accident or crash reporting privilege.
- Intervening cause.
- The pedestrian was at fault or was breaking the law.
- Involuntary intoxication.
- DUI necessity defense.
- DUI entrapment.
- DUI duress.
Extenuating Circumstances for DUI Manslaughter Accusations
You may be able to plead to a lesser charge or have your case thrown out altogether but don’t count on it. There are three common tactics that your attorney may use in an attempt to have the charges dismissed:
- You weren’t driving.
- You weren’t impaired.
- You didn’t cause the crash.
- The pedestrian was a fault
It may seem difficult to discredit a breathalyzer test, but there are many ways to do so, including saying you didn’t get enough sleep, you had a stomach ailment, or you’d been taking certain prescribed medications. It’s also common to try to get the results of your breathalyzer thrown out because the equipment was poorly maintained or miscalibrated.
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The following questions are frequently asked, so we wanted to highlight their answers.
How many years do you get for vehicular homicide in Florida?
If you kill another person in a Florida car accident it is called vehicular manslaughter. It comes with a punishment that can vary between 3 and 20 years in prison. However, the average prison sentence for vehicular manslaughter is just over 9 years.
What are the charges for vehicular homicide in Florida?
In Florida, a vehicular homicide charge comes with a minimum sentence of 9 years and 3 months, but it can go up to 30 years if you flee the scene.
Can you go to jail for accidentally killing someone in a car accident in Florida?
Yes, you can go to jail in most cases. No one purposely tries to kill someone by vehicle. When that happens, it is considered a vehicular homicide. Vehicular manslaughter typically involves doing something like falling asleep at the wheel, speeding, hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk, texting while driving (or doing some other activity that caused you not to pay attention to the road). There was likely no intent to hit anyone in all of these cases mentioned, but it is still against the law to accidentally strike someone else with your car in this manner.
What is the penalty for killing someone while driving drunk in Florida?
Being charged with DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony. The mandatory minimum prison sentence is 4 years.
Charges may include:
- Up to 15 years in prison.
- Probation for up to 15 years.
- Fines of up to $10,000.
Is there ever a reason you would not be at fault for killing someone with your vehicle?
Yes. For instance, there are cases where inebriated pedestrians wander into traffic or in front of a lone vehicle. Another instance could be that you were hit by a car in an accident and you spun into someone or another vehicle, causing a fatality or fatalities.
These cases can be complex and difficult to prove, especially if there are no witnesses. If this happens to you, a top-notch Florida car accident attorney can argue that you were not at fault in the death and improve your chance of winning your case.