What is vehicular manslaughter?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2018 | drunk driving charges

As a Missouri driver, you face extremely serious penalties if law enforcement officers charge you with vehicular manslaughter and the prosecutor convicts you of that charge. As FindLaw explains, vehicular manslaughter is one of several types of involuntary manslaughter.

To convict you of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you accidently killed someone
  • That your actions were criminally negligent; i.e., they were careless and/or in reckless disregard of your victim’s life
  • That your actions consisted of driving while intoxicated or driving while texting

Felony penalties

All involuntary manslaughter convictions, including vehicular manslaughter, are first-degree felonies in Missouri. Which classification, A, B or C, your vehicular manslaughter conviction falls under depends on who died and the circumstances of his or her death.

If convicted of a Class C felony, the least serious, you face a maximum prison term of seven years and a maximum fine of $5,000. A Class B felony conviction carries a prison term of from five to 15 years.

You face Class A felony prosecution only if you have a prior DWI involuntary manslaughter conviction for killing two or more people, someone not a passenger, or if your blood alcohol concentration was 0.18 percent or higher. If the jury convicts you of this most serious kind of felony, you will spend 10-30 years in prison and must serve at least 85 percent of your sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Wrongful death suit

Bear in mind that even if the jury acquits you of vehicular manslaughter, the family of the person(s) who died can still file a wrongful death suit against you in civil court. Here the burden of proof is not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but rather “preponderance of the evidence.” Under this lower standard, all the plaintiffs must prove is that you more likely than not caused their loved one’s death. If they prove it, you must pay them substantial damages to compensate them for their loss.

This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.