Vehicular Homicide Law in Georgia
Vehicular Homicide Lawyer - Vehicular Homicide Attorney
Vehicular homicide is one of the most serious charges anyone can face in the Georgia legal system. Vehicular homicide charges may be considered either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts surrounding the particular case, which will be ultimately up to the Georgia prosecutors.
Georgia DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson has been handling Vehicular Homicide cases in Georgia for more than 25 years. His first vehicular homicide cases were as a Georgia DUI Prosecutor. Richard Lawson is Georgia's most reviewed and top-rated DUI Defense Attorney. His reviews can be found on AVVO.
The following is not meant to offend because the death of another human being is a terrible thing, but you may not be responsible. If you are not responsible for the accident or you were not impaired, you did not commit the offense of Vehicular Homicide. Put his experience to work for you. There is hope, and there are defenses.
Homicide by Vehicle in Georgia:
Georgia law O.C.G.A. §40-6-393 outlines the degrees of homicide by vehicle. A person will be charged with homicide by vehicle in the first degree when, without malice aforethought, a death is caused by the person either unlawfully passing a school bus, reckless driving, fleeing or attempting to elude a police office, or leaving the scene of the accident.
Homicide by vehicle in the second degree occurs when death results due to a violation of any other statute other than the ones specified for homicide in the first degree.
Vehicular Homicide in Georgia Can Be Both a Felony and a Misdemeanor:
Generally, misdemeanor-grade vehicular homicide happens when a death is the result of a violation of basic traffic laws. Conviction of a misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge may warrant a sentence from a Georgia judge up to one year. An example of how this can happen is a death as a result of a speeding violation, failure to maintain lane, or following too closely. If someone is unfortunately killed as a result of regular traffic offenses, they can be charged with misdemeanor vehicular homicide.
A felony-grade vehicular homicide charge occurs when a death is the result of DUI or reckless driving. Convictions of felony-grade vehicular homicide may warrant up to 15 years in prison. The prosecution in Georgia is the Office of the Solicitor-General, who generally prosecutes misdemeanor charges in State Court, and the Office of the District Attorney, who generally prosecutes felony charges in Superior Court.
Vehicular Homicide Case Law in Georgia:
A man was found guilty of homicide vehicle in the first degree when he engaged in reckless driving and two of the passengers were killed. Otuwa v. State, 319 Ga. App. 339, (2012). The defendant was driving 93 miles per hour down a residential road when he lost control of the vehicle, crashed into a stop sign, left the road, and the vehicle began to roll repeatedly. Defendant's sister and another passenger were ejected from the car and died from their injuries. Defendant and a third passenger survived the accident without any major injuries. The speed limit on the road was 45 miles per hour. During the trial, the accused argued that his charge should be reduced to second-degree vehicular homicide because he was speeding. However, the Court found that there was sufficient evidence proving that the accused was engaged in reckless driving and therefore, a charge of first degree vehicular homicide is warranted. Therefore, he was convicted of first-degree homicide by vehicle.
A Georgia case where the suspect was convicted of second-degree homicide by vehicle can be found in McKinney v. State. 213 Ga. App. 498 (1994). In that case, the accused was found guilty of several traffic violations that were the proximate cause of an accident that resulted in the death of the victim. The accused was driving on the wrong side of the road when he hit the victim and she died from her injuries. The suspect attempted to argue at trial that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction for vehicular homicide. However, the jury found ample evidence demonstrating that he violated several traffic laws that lead to the death of the victim. Therefore, a conviction of second degree homicide by vehicle was appropriate.
Penalty for a Homicide by Vehicle Conviction in Georgia:
The consequences for a homicide by vehicle conviction in the first degree are a prison term between three and fifteen years. Further, the crime will be deemed a felony.
A conviction for homicide by vehicle in the second degree is considered a misdemeanor and carries penalties of a fine up to $1,000 or a prison term up to 12 months, or both.
If a person is charged with homicide by vehicle in the first degree and they are a habitual violator and their license has been suspended or revoked, then the punishment will be elevated to a prison term between five and twenty years.
In addition to penalties decided by a judge, the offender could also face a civil suit brought on by the victim's family. In a civil suit, the judge could award damages such as pain and suffering or loss of company to the victim's family.
Furthermore, homicide by vehicle convictions can have long-term consequences. A felony conviction can make finding employment difficult as well as precluding the victim from practicing in certain professions such as teaching, the medical field, and other areas. The conviction will appear during background checks and can also affect obtaining housing or credit. It is highly recommended that you find a knowledgeable lawyer to represent you if you have been charged with homicide by vehicle. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Vehicular Homicide Attorneys are here to help. Don't wait to contact them.
Your Best Defense at an Important Time:
Your best defense begins with the defense of the underlying DUI charge or the Reckless Driving charge or the minor traffic offense (in cases of misdemeanor vehicular homicide). You need a lawyer that (for lack of any other way to say it) will not assume guilt just because there is a death. The State has to prove that you in fact caused the death of another through your actions. You must actually be responsible for the accident. In addition, actual impairment (or a major traffic violation) must be proven in order to make the offense a felony.
Defenses to Vehicular Homicide in Georgia:
Georgia DUI Defenses are the first basis for a defense to Vehicular Homicide. A death alone does not mean a person is responsible. The State of Georgia needs to prove the DUI charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is the State's burden to prove the underlying major traffic offense such as the DUI charge.
The second defense to Vehicular Homicide is causation. Even if the State of Georgia can prove the DUI or the major traffic offense, they still have to prove that but for that offense the person would be alive. The prosecutor must prove the traffic offense or DUI caused the death. The State has to also disprove the contributing negligence of the decedent did not cause his own death or at least contributed to it. In essence, the other driver was responsible for his own death regardless of the DUI driver.
Another option is negotiating to get a felony charge of vehicular homicide reduced to the lesser-included offense of misdemeanor vehicular homicide. The prosecutor has a great deal of discretion in the treatment of your vehicular homicide charges and case and that is why it is vital to negotiate early on. If you find yourself faced with a vehicular homicide charge, you need an experienced lawyer to guide you. Richard Lawson has successfully negotiated several cases from Felony Vehicular Homicide to Misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide.
What are not Defenses to Vehicular Homicide in Georgia:
An argument that the driver was not acting maliciously or with malice will not be accepted by the Court. Georgia law does not require that the driver act with malice or with the intent to kill someone while driving. They will be found guilty if they violated one of the other traffic laws not whether or not they were found to have violated them maliciously.
Some people argue that the other driver was also at fault; therefore, they should not be guilty of homicide by vehicle. If their actions did not contribute to the accident or death of the victim, then they will not be deemed at fault.
In addition, Georgia courts have found a suspect guilty of homicide by vehicle even if they were not driving or in the car. In the case of Guzman v. State, a man gave his 14-year-old son beer and the keys to his car, knowing the minor was about to drive. The suspect was found to be part of the underlying crime of drinking and driving and that his actions substantially contributed to the deaths of the victims. Therefore, he was convicted of first-degree vehicular homicide. 262 Ga. App. 564, (2003).
Georgia attorney Richard S. Lawson offers more than 25 years of experience helping drivers get great results. A strong defense for DUI-related aspects of a vehicular homicide charge is crucial. Mr. Lawson and his team, along with Georgia's top DUI experts, are here to help you. Contact Mr. Lawson's office today for a consultation. Your future depends on it. We are here 365 days a year, 24 hours a day to help.
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