The most serious driving-related offense in Minnesota is criminal vehicular homicide (called vehicular manslaughter in other states). Under Minnesota Statutes §609.2112, criminal vehicular homicide is causing the death of a person or unborn child through:
- gross negligence while operating a vehicle, OR
- ordinary negligence while operating a vehicle, combined with a DUI violation or a hit-and-run.
If you have been charged with vehicular homicide in MN, contact a criminal vehicular homicide attorney to ensure that your rights are protected.
Is Vehicular Manslaughter a Felony in Minnesota?
Yes, vehicular homicide is a felony in MN. These are the potential penalties for a conviction of this crime:
- Prison sentence of up to 10 years*
- Fines of up to $20,000
- Driver’s license suspension of up to 10 years.
* If the defendant also has a “qualified prior driving offense” in the past 10 years, the maximum imprisonment sentence increases to 15 years. Qualified prior driving offenses include:
- First- or second-degree DWI
- Vehicular homicide involving alcohol or drugs
- Vehicular injury involving alcohol or drugs.
Is Vehicular Homicide the Same as Criminal Vehicular Operation in MN?
Vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter is different from criminal vehicular operation in terms of levels of harm. Generally, vehicular manslaughter results in the death of a person while criminal vehicular operation (CVO) involves bodily harm but no death.
The potential penalties for criminal vehicular operation in Minnesota depend on the level of harm involved:
- Bodily harm — This offense is a gross misdemeanor punishable with up to 1 year in prison and $3,000 in fines.
- Substantial bodily harm — This is a felony punishable with up to 3 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
- Great bodily harm — This is a felony punishable with up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
What are Ordinary Negligence and Gross Negligence in MN?
The broad definition of negligence is the failure to take reasonable care in order to avoid causing harm to another person. In driving offenses, there are two types of negligence:
This is simple carelessness that causes harm to others. Examples are:
- Distracted driving
- Failing to yield to another vehicle while attempting to turn
- Failing to fully brake at a stop sign.
More than simple carelessness, this is recklessness or extreme disregard for the safety of others. The prosecution will need to establish that the defendant knew of the danger of his/her action but acted it out anyway. Examples are:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Speeding through a school zone
- Street racing
- Driving while knowing that the vehicle is defective.
Defenses for Criminal Vehicular Homicide in MN
If you are at risk of a vehicular homicide conviction, get an experienced defense attorney to protect you. Your lawyer should be able to determine the best defensive strategy for your case. These are some common defenses against a vehicular manslaughter charge:
- Challenging the causation — Prosecutors have to prove that your actions directly caused the death of the victim. It may be possible to break the “chain of causation” by showing that other “intervening causes” or “superseding causes” occurred. For example, the victim may have stepped out in front of the vehicle without warning, or a slippery road turned a minor fender-bender into a deadly accident.
- Challenging the tests — If your criminal charge is based on the accusation that you were driving while intoxicated, it may be possible to invalidate the toxicology tests such as breath, urine, or blood tests. From contaminated samples to faulty equipment to inexperienced handling, there are many ways these procedures could go wrong, producing inaccurate results. If you and your attorney can successfully prove this, it could lead to a case dismissal.
- Accident without negligent act — Negligence, as discussed above, is an element of vehicular homicide. If you can prove that you did not act negligently while driving, the charges could be dismissed.
Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Dean
Attorney Jeff Dean is a trusted and highly experienced defense lawyer who has protected the rights and freedoms of many Minnesotans. In his 26+ years of legal service, he has obtained dismissals, Not Guilty verdicts, and overturned convictions for his clients. He also helps his clients regain their driving privileges shortly after they are charged with a vehicular crime.
If you are facing a vehicular homicide charge, contact Jeff Dean today at (612) 305-4360.