Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter

Under Minnesota law, you can be convicted of felony criminal vehicular homicide if you’ve caused the death of an unborn child, or person because you were operating a vehicle:

  • In a manner regarded as grossly negligent
  • In a manner outlined in violation of DUI laws in the state of Minnesota
  • After you have been given a violation report for having a defect in the maintenance of your vehicle and because you did not repair the defect, it created a safety risk which resulted in a death

It is also possible to be convicted of vehicular homicide/manslaughter if you’ve caused a fatal crash and left the scene of the accident, which is in violation of hit-and-run laws.

What is Considered Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter

The killing of another human being is defined as a homicide. Homicide is a crime when it is deemed as unjustified, or committed without cause. Vehicular homicide is one form of unjustified homicide. In the State of Minnesota, it is considered involuntary murder when one commits criminal vehicular homicide. If you are accused of murder, but you did not have the intention to kill someone, it is considered ‘involuntary.’ If the action was intentional during a vehicular accident, it is charged as intentional criminal homicide, and is looked at as a murder.

Criminal vehicular homicide is covered under subdivision 1 of the Minnesota criminal statute 60.2112. This statute states that an individual who causes the death of human beings while they are operating a vehicle is guilty of vehicular homicide. The term ‘vehicular homicide’ is used for this type of death because it is not in the same category as murder or manslaughter.

Vehicular homicide is a serious criminal charge, even if it is not called murder. If you are being charged with vehicular homicide/manslaughter, you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Ringstrom Law is experienced in these types of charges and knows the legal system in Minnesota. You will want them on your side to help with these very serious charges. Ringstrom Law can help you fight a charge of vehicular homicide/manslaughter.

There are a number of ways a person can be charged with vehicular homicide if a death occurs because of how they were operating their vehicle. If you are negligent and grossly operating your vehicle and it causes the death of another, you will be charged with vehicular homicide. An example would be ignoring and failing to stop at a stop sign, and you hit and kill a pedestrian.

If you cause the death of another in a vehicular accident because you are under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol, you can be charged with vehicular homicide. It will also result in the charge of vehicular homicide if you are involved in an accident where someone dies, and you flee the scene.

The sentencing for a vehicular homicide conviction depends on the circumstances of the accident, which resulted in the death of another. If you are found to have been drinking before the accident, or that alcohol or illegal substances played a role in your driving abilities, you could receive a much harsher sentence.

Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter Definition of ‘Gross Negligence’

The definition ‘gross negligence’ is used in determining charges of vehicular homicide/manslaughter cases. This determination is made if you have acted without any concern regarding the risk you are causing or have caused to another individual or group of persons. It means you have acted in a way that is considered entirely oblivious of your actions and how they could harm others.

Penalties for Vehicular Homicide

If you are involved in a vehicular homicide, you are facing serious consequences. These consequences will significantly depend on your past criminal history, but typically a conviction on a charge of vehicular homicide carries a ten-year prison sentence. You will also receive a fine that can go as high as $20,000. If you have previously committed a ‘prior driving offense that is labeled as ‘qualified’ within the past ten years of the current charge of vehicular homicide, your maximum penalty will increase to fifteen years in prison.

A qualified prior driving offense will involve:

  • If you have a first or second-degree DWI on your criminal record
  • If you have been involved in a vehicular homicide that involved drugs or alcohol
  • If you have been involved in a vehicular injury that involved drugs or alcohol

Your driver’s license will immediately be suspended upon your arrest for criminal vehicular homicide. If you are convicted of this alleged crime, and the incident involved drugs or alcohol, you can be facing a license revocation for six to ten years. In order for you to apply for a limited license, you will be required to wait one year from the revocation. Having a limited license allows you to drive to a ‘limited’ number of destinations, such as to and from work, or to a substance abuse treatment program.

These are life-altering consequences, and you are going to need a reliable attorney, who understands the criminal law process. Ringstrom Law will help you defend yourself against this charge and find you the best possible outcome to protect your finances and future.

Difference Between Vehicular Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide

It does not happen as often, but a person can be charged with vehicular manslaughter that has occurred while operating a vehicle. This charge is divided into two classifications; first-degree or voluntary, and second-degree or involuntary.

Voluntary or first-degree vehicular manslaughter is a felony, and you would face a fifteen-year prison sentence. It would have to be proven that you intended to cause death in order to be convicted of this charge. Involuntary or second-degree vehicular manslaughter is also a felony, and you would face a ten-year prison sentence. Second-degree vehicular manslaughter is similar to criminal vehicular homicide, but requires a higher level of proof or what is called ‘culpable negligence.’

  • Culpable Negligence

The legal definition for culpable negligence is to act without reasonable caution recklessly. These actions put another person at risk of death or injury. It also covers a reckless act without reasonable caution to prevent something from occurring that results in the same consequences.

Culpable negligence is the omission to perform an act that an honest and prudent person would do to prevent another from serious injury or death.

Involuntary manslaughter is when a person causes the death of another by a reckless or grossly negligent act. With manslaughter, there is a disregard for the safety of others and puts them at risk of death. The actions become criminal, but Minnesota doesn’t penalize them as harshly as an intentional killing.

In Minnesota, involuntary manslaughter is a second-degree level crime. Two forms of criminal vehicular homicide are in place under Minnesota laws, one for unborn fetuses and another for human beings. Vehicular homicide/manslaughter is restricted from addressing negligent driving, such as texting and driving or drunk driving.

Criminally Negligent Manslaughter Versus Depraved Heart Murder

A part of the Minnesota third-degree murder statute is what is called ‘depraved heart.’ This is an act that is eminently dangerous to others that would not have been done unless you had a completely depraved heart or mind. Examples of this crime would include walking into a crowd of people and beginning to shoot a gun. You were not actually planning to kill a specific person; however, doing this action just to see what would happen is not socially acceptable as it is extremely likely that harm will occur.

Comparing this form of crime to criminal negligence that occurs in manslaughter in the second-degree, which are acts that will likely harm others, but there was no eminence to the risk. Examples of this would be playing ‘chicken’ with your vehicle that results in the other driver running off the road and dying. This accident and death would be considered involuntary manslaughter or criminal vehicular homicide.

Criminal Accidental Deaths Under Minnesota Statutes

This outline describes Minnesota’s involuntary manslaughter laws as stated under Manslaughter in the second-degree 609.205, criminal vehicular homicide 609.2112, and criminal vehicular operation: unborn child 609.2114

  • Create an unreasonable risk, and you consciously took a chance that caused severe bodily harm or death to another
  • Shooting a dangerous weapon or firearm because you negligently thought the person shot was an animal or deer (related to hunting accidents)
  • Another was severely harmed or killed because of trap you set such as pitfall, snare, spring gun, etc
  • You permitted an animal you knew was vicious to run uncontrolled from your land or home, or you failed to keep this vicious animal properly confined, and it causes severe injuries or death to another
  • You have endangered or neglected a child, but did not commit murder in first, second, or third-degree
  • Your driving was grossly negligent
  • You were driving negligently and under the influence of Schedule I or II controlled substances, but not marijuana
  • Are proven to having a BAC of 0.08 percent or more
  • Knowingly and negligently were driving while under the influence of a hazardous chemical or gas that is able to cause severe physical harm or death
  • While you were driving, you caused a collision and then left the scene, even though you understand that it is your legal obligation to stop if someone has been severely injured or killed
  • If you have been warned by a law official that your vehicle is defective, but you don’t make the repairs, and because of this, you’ve caused an accident that results in severe injuries or a death

Criminal vehicular homicide and manslaughter in the second-degree where either a human being or an unborn child has been killed is punishable up to no more than ten years in prison, and cannot be fined more than $20,000.

 Legal Defense Against Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter

It is imperative that you seek reliable legal counsel, even if you feel the severity of punishment is light for vehicular homicide. There are a number of legal defenses available, one of which is the lack of gross negligence or negligence, insufficient evidence against you, causation, mistaken identity, and involuntary intoxication.

Causation can be an effective defense when the substance in question can be proven not to have led to the injuries or property damage in question. An example of this defense would be if you’ve hit a pedestrian who unexpectedly stepped out in front of your car. Your attorney at Ringstrom Law can show the courts this accident would have happened regardless of your drug levels or blood alcohol content.

A very effective legal defense is proving there was a lack of causation between your conduct and the resulting accident. There can be supervening circumstances involved in your case, such as a defective part in your vehicle, a pothole in the road, or even the actions of the victim or someone else can break the chain of causation. Breaking the chain of causation can result in an acquittal against your charges. It is also possible to show the accident in question could have occurred regardless of your conduct or negligence.

Test issues can also lead to a dismissal of your charges. Urine, breath, and blood tests can be inaccurate. Your attorney at Ringstrom Law understands how these tests can be run by inexperienced personnel, or even with faulty equipment. Contact them as soon as possible, so every angle can be investigated to find you the best defense strategy possible.

An experienced attorney understands the steps needed to reduce the charges their clients face or to even have them dismissed entirely. Ringstrom Law is the attorney you want on your side when you are facing a serious charge of vehicular homicide/manslaughter. These are some of the experts they can use to help with your defense strategy:

Accident reconstruction experts can help to investigate what is being alleged as facts in your case. These experts can find the cause of the accident, such as why and how it happened.

The accident reconstruction expert will help your criminal vehicular homicide defense attorney from Ringstrom Law with these answers. They will also provide expert witness testimony to a jury should your case to court. These experts are able to identify the actual cause of a vehicle accident.

  • Other experts used by criminal defense attorneys are the chemical test experts. As experts on alcohol toxicology and chemical testing, they are able to help both your defense attorney at Ringstrom Law and the jury should your case go to court. The testing they can provide help for include those done on your urine, blood, and breath.
  • Breathalyzer Calibration in Regards to Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter Charges

Under Minnesota law, you implicitly consent to a test from the arresting officer’s choosing within two hours of your arrest. Refusing to take this test does not mean you will avoid conviction of a DWI, as the test will only prove your blood alcohol levels were over .08 percent. Calibrating and maintaining the machines used for this test ensures accurate results, which the prosecutor will use as evidence against you if the readings are higher than .08 percent.

 For use in court, these test readings from Breathalyzer devices are acceptable if they have been properly maintained and regularly checked for accuracy. These machines must also be operated by operators who have been properly trained to administer the tests.

 When the officer administers the test, they must make sure you did not eat, drink, smoke, vomit, or burp over a specific period of time before they give you the test, as these actions can alter the results. Expert chemical testers can ensure the test you were given was administered by a qualified tester, under the proper conditions, and by an accurate machine.

 Any sign or deviation from the calibration or operation by the test taker can allow for your defense attorney to challenge the results of your BAC readings. If your attorney at Ringstrom Law can discredit this evidence, the state will bear the burden to prove intoxication another way with your vehicular homicide/manslaughter charge.

 After a vehicular homicide/manslaughter occurs, you become a target for the police as well as the prosecution. You need a criminal defense attorney who can protect you against these charges with adequate resources to develop the best defense possible for you.

 Where to Find Reliable Criminal Defense for Vehicular Homicide/Manslaughter Near Me

Being charged with vehicular homicide/manslaughter does not make you a criminal or a bad person. It means you have to contact Ringstrom Law at 218-284-0484 to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome against these charges. It is to your advantage and your best interest to contact Ringstom Law immediately if someone you know, or you have been arrested for vehicular homicide/manslaughter.

MN criminal defense attorneys Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in MN & ND

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  • Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • MSBA: Minnesota State Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • State Bar Association of North Dakota

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