When a car accident in North Carolina results in a death, the person responsible for causing the accident may be charged with vehicular manslaughter. A conviction of vehicular manslaughter can harm your rights and your reputation and may result in imprisonment and hefty fines. If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter, it is essential to meet with a Charlotte or Concord homicide lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the facts surrounding your accident and your options for defending against the charges that you face. The criminal defense attorneys at the Olsinski Law Firm are skilled at defending people charged with vehicular manslaughter and can formulate an effective strategy to help you seek a just result.Felony Versus Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter Under North Carolina Law
Under North Carolina law, vehicular manslaughter may be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case. Felony vehicular manslaughter, which is also known as felony vehicle by death, happens when an individual unintentionally causes the death of another person when he or she is driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, if the impaired driving proximately causes the person’s death.
If the person whose impaired driving caused the death of another person was convicted of impaired driving within seven years of the date of the deadly accident, he or she may be charged with aggravated felony death by vehicle. In cases in which a person who was previously convicted of either felony or aggravated felony death by vehicle is subsequently charged with felony or aggravated felony death by vehicle, he or she will be charged with repeat felony death by vehicle.
Conversely, a person may be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter or death by vehicle if he or she unintentionally causes the death of another person while violating a law relating to the use and operation of a vehicle, if the violation is the cause of the death.
Regardless of the severity of the vehicular manslaughter offense, the State is required to prove both that the defendant violated a traffic law and that the violation caused the victim’s death. Thus, if the State does not have sufficient evidence to prove that there was a violation of the law, the defendant may be able to avoid a conviction. For example, if the State alleges that the defendant drove while impaired but does not have adequate evidence to prove impairment, the State’s argument may fail. Similarly, even if the defendant violated a traffic law, if a factor other than the violation caused the victim's death, the State should not be able to obtain a conviction.Punishments for a Vehicular Manslaughter Conviction
The penalties for a vehicular manslaughter conviction vary depending on the precise offense charged. Felony death by vehicle and aggravated felony death by vehicle are both Class D felonies, punishable by up to 204 months in prison and fines, while repeat felony death by vehicle is a Class B2 felony, which is punishable by up to 484 months in prison, as well as fines. Misdemeanor death by vehicle is a Class A1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 150 days in jail. If you are charged with a vehicular manslaughter offense, it is important to meet with a seasoned criminal defense attorney to discuss the potential penalties that you may face if convicted and to formulate a plan for your defense.Consult a Knowledgeable Defense Lawyer in Concord or Charlotte
A person does not need to act with malice or intent to be charged with vehicular manslaughter, but a vehicular manslaughter conviction can result in significant penalties. At the Olsinski Law Firm, our skilled criminal defense attorneys are proficient in defending against vehicular manslaughter charges and will work zealously to help you seek a successful outcome in your case. We regularly assist people charged with vehicular manslaughter in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus Counties, including in Charlotte, Concord, Huntersville, Matthews, Cornelius, Mint Hill, Davidson, Pineville, Kannapolis, Harrisburg, Midland, and Mount Pleasant. We can be reached via our online form, at our Concord office at 704-918-4747, or at our Charlotte office at 704-405-2580 to schedule a consultation.