Vehicular manslaughter, also referred to as vehicular homicide, is a type of misdemeanor manslaughter, which holds people accountable for any death that occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. At the most basic level, a vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person negligently operates a vehicle and this negligence results in a death. In these cases the negligence involves committing an unlawful fact, but is not enough to be considered a felony. Victims can be any of the passengers who are in the car with the driver, or those outside of the car, such as other drivers, pedestrians or cyclists. Currently three states have specific laws in place that apply to these types of cases. Massachusetts is not one of these states.
Alcohol plays a role in many of these cases. Vehicular manslaughter laws commonly involve prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (this is usually determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by the state of Massachusetts.) This often involves a hit and run accident where a driver has become disoriented and leaves the scene, and can involved pedestrians, where a car strikes a pedestrian and a driver flees the scene in shock.
Depending on the circumstances, charges for this can be either felonies or misdemeanor. This is based on whether or not the driver was operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Regardless of the charge, if convicted you face losing your license for 15 years. If your record includes a previous conviction for OUI, this can be extended to a lifetime loss of your license. In all cases license suspension begins as soon as charges are filed. Whether the verdict is an acquittal or you are found guilty, a hearing will need to be head at the Registry to have the license reinstated.
In Massachusetts, if the charge is for a misdemeanor the penalty is a minimum of 30 days in jail or up to two and half years in the House of Correction. Along with this, fines start at $300 and can reach as high as $3,000. On the other hand, the penalties are much steeper if the charge is a felony. In order to be convicted of this felony, it must be proven that you were driving negligently or recklessly and that caused the death while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. The minimum sentence is 1 year in the House of Correction, and it must be served. Furthermore, the maximum sentence is 15 years of jail time. Along with this there can be a fine of up to $5,000, and you will not be eligible for parole for one year following the sentencing. Manslaughter with a motor vehicle has a similar standard of proof, but carries more severe penalties due to the increased seriousness of the crime. The minimum sentence for this if you are convicted is 5 years in jail, with a maximum of 20 years. There can also be a fine of up to $25,000 as well as the loss of you
Speak with a Boston Criminal Lawyer for Vehicular Manslaughter
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The Parker | Scheer LLP Criminal Practice Group is led by Boston Criminal Lawyer Francis T. O’Brien Jr. who defends criminal cases in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Criminal Courts served include Cambridge District Court, Cambridge, MA – Boston Municipal Court, Boston, MA – Brockton District Court, Brockton, MA – Framingham District Court, Framingham, MA – Waltham District Court, Waltham, MA.
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