Reckless Driving and Vehicular Manslaughter
You may have seen references to vehicular homicide in the news lately. On August 20, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced that it was considering charging Caitlyn Jenner with a manslaughter offense, in connection with a fatal motor vehicle accident that occurred earlier this year. Jenner was not intoxicated at the time of the incident, was driving under the posted speed limit, and a representative of the sheriff’s office stated that Jenner did not commit gross negligence. But Jenner could nonetheless face up to a year in prison for the charge of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.
Most states have laws dealing specifically with fatal motor vehicle accidents – and generally, a driver doesn’t need to be driving under the influence, or guilty of gross negligence, in order to be charged. This is true of Florida’s vehicular homicide law, Florida Statute 782.071. Under the statute, vehicular homicide refers to the killing of another individual while driving a motor vehicle in a reckless manner.“Driving in a Reckless Manner”
If you’re wondering how Florida defines “driving in a reckless manner,” a definition can be found in Florida Statute 316.192. This is Florida’s law against reckless driving, which is a criminal offense in and of itself.
According to 316.192, reckless driving occurs when any person drives any vehicle in “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” It also states that fleeing a law enforcement officer while driving a motor vehicle is automatically considered reckless driving.
The maximum punishment for a first conviction of reckless driving, on its own, is imprisonment for a period of up to 90 days, and/or a fine of $25 to $500. If the conviction is not your first, the punishment could be imprisonment for up to 6 months, and/or a fine of $50 to $1,000.Punishments for Vehicular Homicide
Vehicular homicide is ordinarily a second-degree felony. However, it can rise to the level of a first-degree felony if:
- At the time of the accident, the person knew, or should have known, that the accident occurred, and
- The person failed to give information and render aid as required by law.
782.071 also states that, in addition to the punishments typically associated with first and second-degree felonies, a court may order a defendant to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents.What This Means for You
If you’ve been charged with any offense in connection with a motor vehicle accident – or if you were involved in an accident, and you have concerns that you may be charged – a lawyer can help. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry has years of experience with motor vehicle offenses. You can contact his office today to schedule a free consultation.