DUI manslaughter charges and DUI maiming charges in Virginia cover crimes that occur when someone kills or injures another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. These are serious charges that carry serious penalties, but a strong defense can help avoid a criminal conviction or result in a favorable plea deal to a lesser charge.
Virginia law generally treats DUI manslaughter the same way it treats involuntary manslaughter. A person can be convicted of DUI manslaughter and face up to 10 years in prison if they unintentionally cause another person’s death in an accident while driving intoxicated. However, if the defendant’s conduct was “so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life,” the defendant can be convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and face up to 20 years in prison.
As a practical matter, any time a person dies in a car accident and there is even a scintilla of evidence suggesting that the other driver was driving under the influence, the Commonwealth will generally charge the driver with the most severe offense available, DUI manslaughter or aggravated DUI manslaughter. The sentencing guidelines used to calculate the recommended sentence in each case vary dramatically depending on the charge of conviction. An individual with no record who is convicted of aggravated DUI manslaughter will generally face a guidelines range of 3 years and 2 months, to 7 years and 8 months. An individual convicted of regular DUI manslaughter with no record would face a sentencing guideline range of 10 months to 2 years and 10 months.
If the alleged victim died in a car accident due to a driver’s negligence and the presence of alcohol cannot be proven, the person can be charged with involuntary manslaughter, which carries a recommended sentence of probation.
To be convicted of DUI maiming, the prosecution must prove that a driver under the influence of alcohol or narcotics caused a serious injury to another person in a manner “so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.”
Where it results in a serious but temporary injury, DUI maiming is a Class 6 felony with a sentencing range of 0-5 years. Where the injury is permanent, however, DUI maiming is treated as a Class 4 felony, with a potential sentencing range of 0-10 years.
Cases involving allegations of DUI manslaughter charges and/or DUI maiming charges can be defended on several grounds. For example, a defendant can show that their driving was not the actual cause of a person’s injury or death. Like with lawsuits involving car accidents and personal injuries, the prosecution will have to show that your driving under the influence caused the accident or injury. An expert can also review the autopsy or medical records of the victim and determine if there was another cause of death or injury besides the car accident.
A defendant can also show they were not actually intoxicated at the time of the car accident, such as by using an expert to prove that any lab results are flawed or incorrect. A defendant can also point to other circumstances surrounding an accident, such as negligence by other drivers or difficult road conditions, to prove their conduct was not “so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.”
Even in cases where the evidence is strongly against you, an experienced criminal defense attorney can also help you avoid the harshest penalties by negotiating a more favorable deal with the prosecutor. For example, by attacking weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case or through the presentation of mitigating evidence, such as expert analysis, you may be able to plead to a lesser offense, such as a regular DUI or involuntary manslaughter. As long as the DUI manslaughter is not aggravated, a conviction for DUI manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter is eligible for sealing and expungement after the defendant meets certain conditions.
Our criminal defense lawyers in Virginia understand how best to challenge serious DUI manslaughter charges in Virginia. We have helped dozens of people successfully resolve serious criminal charges in Virginia with pretrial dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and reasonable plea deals.
If you or someone you know is facing a DUI manslaughter or maiming charge in Virginia, contact us now for immediate help.