Vehicular homicide

Vehicular homicide

Vehicular Homicide ("or sometimes known as "Vehicular Manslaughter")" in most states in the United States, is a crime. In general, it involves death that results from the negligent operation of a vehicle, or that results from driving whilst committing an unlawful act that does not amount to a felony. In general, it is a lesser charge than manslaughter. In the Model Penal Code there is no separate category of vehicular homicide, and vehicular homicides that involve negligence are included in the overall category of negligent homicide. [cite book|title=An Introduction to the American Legal System|author=John M. Scheb II and John Malcolm Scheb|pages=120|year=2001|publisher=Thomson Delmar Learning|id=ISBN 0766827593] [cite book|title=Handbook of Criminal Justice Administration|author=Michael Hooper, M. A. Dupont-Morales, and Judy H. Schmidt|pages=177|year=2001|publisher=Marcel Dekker|id=ISBN 0824704185] It can be compared to the offence of dangerous driving causing death in other countries.

All states except Alaska, Montana, Arizona, and Oregon have vehicular homicide statutes. The laws have the effect of making a vehicle a potentially deadly weapon, to allow for easier conviction and more severe penalties. In states with such statutes, defendants can still be charged with manslaughter or murder in some situations. [cite web|url=|title=Vehicular Homicide and the Impaired Driver|accessdate=2004-01-04|publisher=Department of Transportation]

The victim may be either a person not in the car with the offender, such as a pedestrian or another motorist, or a passenger in the vehicle with the offender.cite journal|url=|title=The Determinants of Punishment: Deterrence, Incapacitation and Vengeance|journal=NBER Working Paper|volume=7676|month=April | year=2000|author=Glaeser, Edward L. and Sacerdote, Bruce|format=dead link|date=June 2008 – [ Scholar search] ]

There are proposals in other countries to adopt the single nomenclature of "vehicular homicide" as it is used in the United States.


A study by professors at Dartmouth College and Harvard University found that those convicted of vehicular homicide are given, on average, shorter sentences than those found guilty of other types of homicide. The study found that the gender of the offender does not statistically affect the length of the sentence, but the race does. The identity of the victim is a more important predictor of sentencing length, with longer sentences given to offenders in cases where the victim was female and/or had no violent criminal record.

Some states, such as Minnesota, have statutes allowing for a charge of vehicular homicide if an unborn child is killed or injured by a motorist.cite web|url=|format=PDF|publisher=Minnesota Department of Public Safety|title=A Brief Overview of Minnesota’s DWI Laws: Minnesota Statutes Chapter 169A and Related Laws|author=James Cleary and Joseph Cox|work=Minnesota Impaired Driving Facts Report]

Vehicular homicide by state


In the state of Georgia, vehicular homicide is more properly known as homicide by vehicle. It is defined, by statute, as the unlawful killing of another person using a vehicle. It does not require mens rea, an intent to kill, nor does it require malice aforethought or premeditation.cite web|url=|title=Vehicular Homicide Laws|author=Allen M. Trapp, Jr., P.C.|year=2004]

There are two degrees of vehicular homicide:;First degree homicide by vehicle:This is a felony, that upon conviction will result in a sentence of between 3 and 15 years of imprisonment (or between 5 and 20 years for habitual violators), with no parole for at least 1 year. A homicide is first degree homicide by vehicle if the driver "unlawfully met or overtook a school bus; unlawfully failed to stop after a collision; was driving recklessly; was driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; failed to stop for, or otherwise was attempting to flee from a law enforcement officer; or had previously been declared a habitual violator".;Second degree homicide by vehicle: This is a misdemeanor, that upon conviction will result in a sentence of up to 1 year (which may be suspended) or a fine of up to US$1,000 (or both). Second degree homicide by vehicle encompasses all other homicides by vehicle, involving any other violation of the laws governing motor vehicles, that are not classed as first degree homicides.


In the state of Louisiana, vehicular homicide is defined as the killing of a human being while operating a motor vehicle, or other means of conveyance, under the influence of alcohol and/or controlled substances. The minimum punishment is a fine of at least $2,000 (not more than $15,000), and 2-30 years in prison.


In the state of Minnesota, vehicular homicide is one of the six levels of criminal vehicular operation, and is defined as causing the death of a person, that does not constitute murder or manslaughter, as a result of operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, in violation of the driving whilst intoxicated law, or where the driver flees the scene in violation of the felony fleeing law.

Washington State

:RCW 46.61.520 Vehicular homicide — Penalty.

::(1) When the death of any person ensues within three years as a proximate result of injury proximately caused by the driving of any vehicle by any person, the driver is guilty of vehicular homicide if the driver was operating a motor vehicle:

:::a While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 46.61.502; or:::b In a reckless manner; or:::c With disregard for the safety of others.

::(2) Vehicular homicide is a class A felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW, except that, for a conviction under subsection (1)(a) of this section, an additional two years shall be added to the sentence for each prior offense as defined in RCW 46.61.5055.


In the state of Wisconsin, corporations may be convicted of the negligent operation of a vehicle. Under Wisconsin law, a corporation can be held liable for the actions of its employees even when the employee is expressly instructed not to perform those actions by the employer. [cite book|pages=68–70;|chapter=3. Components of a crime VII. Vicarious and corporate liability|title=Criminal Law & Procedure for the Paralegal: A Systems Approach|author=James W. H. MacCord and Sandra L. MacCord|year=2001|publisher=Thomson Delmar Learning|id=ISBN 0766819655]


In the state of Oregon, there is a recent proposal by cyclists as well as motorists to add a vehicular homicide statute to the books. [ [ Dad's death prompts daughters to push for change] ] [ [ Proposed Law Would Create Crime Of Vehicular Homicide In Oregon] ] [ [ Widow of slain bicyclist presses for new laws] ] Lonny Friberg, 62, of Scappoose, Oregon, was killed by a careless driver on March 18 2008 but because Oregon has no vehicular homicide law, the other driver was never charged with a crime. His daughters are fighting for a new law called "A Law For Lonny" that would allow these types of homicides to be prosecuted. [ [ A Law for] ]

In other countries

In the United Kingdom, there is no offence of "vehicular homicide". The offences are "causing death by dangerous driving" and "causing death by careless driving whilst unfit through alcohol/over prescribed limit", under the Road Traffic Act 1988. This act removed the offence of "reckless driving" as the concept of recklessness in law requires a mens rea that was often difficult to prove in court. Additional offences connected to fatal road collisions were enacted in the Road Safety Act 2006 but have yet to be brought into force. Legal reformists have pressed for the adoption of a categorization more akin to that of the United States. Clarkson, an advocate of a vehicular homicide offence, opines that whilst people's perceptions are that death resulting from a motor vehicle is in a different "family" to other killings, "in terms of fault there can be little distinction between those who kill through the dangerous operation of their cars and those who kill with machines, trains, etc.". [cite web|year=1988|url=|work=Road Traffic Act 1988|title=c.52 §1|publisher=Office of Public Sector Information] [cite book|title=Rethinking English Homicide Law|author=C.M.V. Clarkson|chapter=Context and culpability in involuntary manslaughter: Principle or instinct?|editor=Andrew Ashworth and Barry Mitchell|pages=148–150,164|year=2000|publisher=Oxford University Press|id=ISBN 019829915X]

Famous people convicted

* Craig MacTavish, former NHL Hockey player [ [ MacTavish is free] New York Times. May 15 2985. Accessed August 27 2007.]
* Dany Heatley, current NHL Hockey player [ [ Dany Heatley avoids jail time] CBC Sports. February 4 2005. Accessed August 27 2007.]
* Dwayne Goodrich, former Dallas Cowboys football player [ [ Ex-Cowboys player sentenced to prison for hit-and-run deaths - Sports - Brief Article] Jet. September 8 2003. Accessed August 27 2007.]
* Charles E. Smith, basketball player for Georgetown University and Boston Celtics [ [ Smith, a former Celtic, gets a split verdict, abstract] The New York Times. March 13 1992. Accessed August 27 2007.]
* Lane Garrison, television actor in "Prison Break" [ [,4670,PeopleLaneGarrison,00.html Fox News] August 2 2007.]


External links

* [ Washington State Vehicular Homicide Law]
* [ California State Vehicular Homicide Law]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • vehicular homicide — Homicide caused by the unlawful and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Both intentional conduct and negligence may be the basis for such charge though statutes vary from state to state as to the elements of the crime. See e.g. Model Penal… …   Black's law dictionary

  • vehicular homicide — see homicide Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • homicide — ho·mi·cide / hä mə ˌsīd, hō / n [Latin homicidium, from homo human being + caedere to cut, kill] 1: a person who kills another 2: the killing of one human being by another compare manslaughter, murder …   Law dictionary

  • vehicular — [vē hik′yoo lər] adj. [LL vehicularis] 1. of or for vehicles [a vehicular tunnel] 2. serving as a vehicle 3. resulting from a collision or collisions, etc. of or with a vehicle or vehicles [vehicular homicide] …   English World dictionary

  • vehicular — /vee hik yeuh leuhr/, adj. 1. of, pertaining to, or for vehicles: a vehicular tunnel. 2. serving as a vehicle. 3. caused by a vehicle; attributed or attributable to vehicles: vehicular homicide. 4. carried on or transported by means of a vehicle …   Universalium

  • vehicular crimes — Criminal acts committed while operating a motor vehicle, e.g. vehicular manslaughter (N.Y. Penal Law 125.13), vehicular assault (N.Y.Penal Law 120.04). See also vehicular homicide …   Black's law dictionary

  • vehicular — adjective Date: 1616 1. a. of, relating to, or designed for vehicles and especially motor vehicles b. transported by vehicle c. caused by or resulting from the operation of a vehicle < vehicular homicide > 2. serving as a vehicle …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • vehicular — ve•hic•u•lar [[t]viˈhɪk yə lər[/t]] adj. 1) trs of, pertaining to, or for vehicles 2) trs serving as a vehicle 3) trs caused by a vehicle: vehicular homicide[/ex] …   From formal English to slang

  • vehicular manslaughter — See vehicular homicide …   Black's law dictionary

  • homicide, vehicular — n. The killing of a person through the negligent or reckless operation of a motor vehicle such as an automobile, airplane, or boat. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. 2008 …   Law dictionary

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