Vehicular Manslaughter vs. Vehicular Homicide
DUI charges on their own are already very serious, but when they are paired with an accident or death, the consequences are severe. The difference between vehicular manslaughter vs. vehicular homicide confuses many people, which leads to misunderstandings about the law and how these crimes are charged.
Manslaughter Laws in Nevada
Manslaughter (NRS § 200.040) is a felonious crime in Nevada that is punishable with prison time. The term defines the killing of another without intent or malice, meaning someone killed another person by accident or without premeditation of the crime. Often, manslaughter charges result from heated disagreements or slayings committed out of passion.
Manslaughter can be voluntary or involuntary. Unintentional death resulting from recklessness or negligence falls into the category of involuntary manslaughter (NRS § 200.070). Involuntary manslaughter, a Category D felony, can be punishable by up to four years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
Voluntary manslaughter (NRS § 200.050) occurs when a person kills someone else because they were provoked. This is different from homicide because a “crime of passion” does not include a premeditated action by the offender. While you would think that vehicular manslaughter falls under this category, it gets its own definition in Nevada law.
What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Nevada distinguishes vehicular manslaughter as careless or negligent driving that results in another’s death. This offense implies that a person was expected to act in a reasonable manner yet failed to do so.
This can include things like not following driving laws, such as speeding, texting while driving, or running a stop sign. Defendants accused of vehicular manslaughter may or may not also be prosecuted for things like driving under the influence, depending on the circumstances.
Punishments and Sentencing for Vehicular Manslaughter in Nevada
Vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor crime in Nevada. The exact punishment for this crime varies from case to case but generally can result in:
- Up to six months in a state prison
- Fines up to $1,000
- Temporary license suspension
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for up to three years when driving privileges are reinstated
Other factors can influence the sentencing in a vehicular manslaughter case. If a defendant was transporting a minor under the age of 15 at the time of the incident, it may result in a longer prison sentence or steeper fines. A defendant’s prior DUI convictions also influence charges.
What Is Vehicular Homicide?
Vehicular homicide is a more serious charge than vehicular manslaughter. This charge is issued when a person with three or more prior DUI convictions has caused someone’s death while driving under the influence (NRS § 484C.130). A person can also be charged with other offenses along with vehicular homicide depending on the circumstances, like reckless driving (NRS § 484B.653) or a felony DUI.
The two main requirements for a standard DUI charge to become a vehicular homicide charge are (NRS § 484C.430):
- A person’s reckless driving caused another person’s death
- The offender has been convicted of at least three prior DUI offenses
Punishments and Sentencing for Vehicular Homicide in Nevada
Vehicular homicide is a Category A felony in Nevada, which can result in 25 years to life in state prison. Parole may be possible after 10 years, but a person’s license can be suspended or revoked up to three years after their release.
How Is Vehicular Manslaughter Different From Vehicular Homicide?
Vehicular homicide is very similar to vehicular manslaughter in that both involve the death of another person because of someone’s reckless driving. The only difference between the two is that an offender with three prior DUIs will be convicted of vehicular homicide rather than vehicular manslaughter.
Another difference between the two charges is that vehicular homicide is, on average, much easier to prove than manslaughter.
Defenses Against Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
Those facing vehicular manslaughter charges must deal with the burden of disproving allegations that they were driving negligently when the accident occurred, and that the victim’s death was their fault. This makes the case complicated and tricky to navigate, so most people facing these charges seek legal counsel to represent their case.
Depending on the evidence presented during the trial, there are a few ways a person’s lawyer can fight or reduce charges of vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter. These include:
- Claiming the police administered the defendant’s field sobriety tests incorrectly
- Protesting that the test or device used to measure drug and alcohol content was defective
- Insisting the defendant has a medical condition that can cause inaccurate results from the field sobriety test
Deportation Is a Possible Consequence
While an ordinary DUI may not affect a person’s immigration or citizen status, a felony or misdemeanor might. Non-U.S. citizens who are found guilty of vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide face the possibility of deportation following their conviction.
Voluntary manslaughter is one of the qualifying crimes of moral turpitude that can lead to deportation. This may or may not include vehicular manslaughter, depending on the case’s circumstances.
Defenses Against Vehicular Homicide Charges
Like vehicular manslaughter, the defense cans use several strategies depending on the available evidence. This can include:
- Surveillance footage from surrounding buildings’ security systems, traffic cameras, or dashcams
- Testimony from witnesses at the scene
- Blood and breath test results
- The testimony from an accident reconstruction expert
A criminal defense lawyer may argue that the defendant did not cause the accident even if they were under the influence. They could also argue that the defendant caused the accident but was not under the influence or that the person does not have three (or more) prior DUI convictions to be accused of vehicular homicide. Police misconduct is another possible defense, challenging the legitimacy of their law enforcement.
Reducing Charges to a Lesser Crime
Vehicular homicide is considered a more serious felony than vehicular manslaughter, which may be an option a lawyer uses to get their client a lesser felony charge.
To plea to a lesser charge, someone would have to prove they have no prior DUI charges, have never been convicted of another serious vehicle offense, or that a medical condition or a defective vehicle part caused a person to lose control of their vehicle and drive recklessly as a result.
Sealing or Expunging Crimes From a Criminal Record
In Nevada, criminal records cannot be expunged (completely erased), but they can be sealed or hidden from the public. This is useful as it will hide a person’s conviction from potential employers, future renters, bank loan officials, or anyone else who may run a background check.
Unfortunately, most felonies cannot be sealed in Nevada. This means the only way a criminal record can be sealed is if the vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charge was dismissed. Otherwise, the conviction remains on a criminal record forever. This makes it important to fight the initial charges so that they will not end up on this permanent public record.
Our Nevada Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help Defend Against Vehicular Manslaughter or Vehicular Homicide
The consequences for vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide are steep. Because the charges in these cases are often complex, it is important to have legal counsel that can navigate Nevada law and build a strong defense. If you are facing vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges in Nevada, the legal team at De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers can review your situation and advise you on your legal options.
Call us today for a free and private consultation. You can also learn more about DUI laws and felony DUI cases in Nevada and discover how our lawyer can help your case.