You are facing serious charges if you are pulled over and arrested for DUI in Fairfax. If the offense caused a motor vehicle accident resulting in an individual's death, you could be arrested for an even more serious charge - DUI involuntary manslaughter. If convicted of DUI involuntary manslaughter, your punishment can include a large fine and a lengthy prison sentence.
What Is the Crime of Involuntary Manslaughter Related to DUI?
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-36.1, it is a crime to unintentionally cause the death of another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In order to be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The driver was driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.
- The driver unintentionally caused the death of another person.
How Unintentionally Causing the Death of an Individual Is Proven
In order to prove that the driver unintentionally caused the death of another person, the Commonwealth of Virginia must prove that the death was caused by the driver’s driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is insufficient for the prosecutor to just show that the person was intoxicated. To be convicted of DUI involuntary manslaughter, it must be established that the death happened because of the effects that the alcohol or drugs had on the driver.
What Must Be Shown to Establish Driving Under the Influence
There are a number of ways that the Commonwealth can establish that the driver was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. One way is through the use of chemical breath and blood tests that show that the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. If this is established, there would be a presumption that the driver was under the influence.
However, it is not required that the prosecutor prove that the driver had a certain level of alcohol or drugs in his system for intoxication to be presumed. It may be sufficient that the impairment is observable, such as in the driver’s general appearance, behavior, speech, or muscular movements. The prosecutor can prove this in a number of ways:
- Slurred speech
- Appearance of intoxication, such as glassy or bloodshot eyes
- Driving behaviors, such as weaving or driving erratically
- Failure to perform field sobriety tests
- Driver’s admission of use of alcohol or drugs
Penalties for DUI Involuntary Manslaughter
An individual can be charged with both DUI and DUI involuntary manslaughter and can face punishments for both crimes if convicted. DUI involuntary manslaughter is a Class 5 felony in Virginia. Upon conviction, a person can face these penalties:
- Minimum prison sentence of one year up to a maximum of 10 years
- Fine of up to $2,500
- Seizure and forfeiture of the driver’s vehicle
- Six demerit points on a person’s driving record
- Indefinite revocation of the person’s driver’s license
In addition, a conviction would result in a permanent criminal record that can have many long-term consequences on a person’s life.
Aggravated Involuntary Manslaughter Charges and Penalties Related to DUI
Involuntary manslaughter can be charged as aggravated DUI involuntary manslaughter if, as a result of driving under the influence, the driver unintentionally caused another's death and the driver’s conduct was “so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.” Reckless disregard for a person’s life is referred to as criminal negligence.
Whether the conduct rises to the level of criminal negligence is judged objectively. It depends on whether the driver knew, or should have known, of the potential consequences of his actions and pursued them anyway.
If convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, a person can face even harsher penalties. The minimum punishment is one year in prison and can be increased to up to a 20-year prison sentence. In addition, the sentence can include a fine of up to $2,500.
Retain an Experienced DUI Attorney in Fairfax
Have you been charged with DUI involuntary manslaughter in Fairfax or Northern Virginia? At Greenspun Shapiro PC, our experienced DUI lawyers are committed to helping you mount a strong defense to the charges you face so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious charge. To find out more about how we can help you, start an online chat or call our office to schedule your free consultation today.