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Vehicular Manslaughter In Florida

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Far too many fatalities happen on Florida roads every day, with many of them being caused by drivers’ own negligence. However, some are caused by the negligence of another person, and these cases can be difficult to classify. Depending on the intent of the driver, an incident where a person dies after a vehicle crash can be charged as a homicide, as manslaughter, or it may not be charged at all. 

No Knowledge Required

Florida’s law defines vehicular manslaughter (also called vehicular homicide) as the killing of a person, or of an “unborn child” through injury to a pregnant woman, via reckless driving of a vehicle. While the term “reckless” has several possible interpretations under most laws, this one defines the conduct needed to charge vehicular homicide very specifically. There are two ways that a conviction for vehicular homicide can happen: either through demonstrating the reckless operation of a vehicle was the direct cause of the person’s death, or through what is called failing to stop and render aid.

The latter requires showing that two things are true: (1) that the person knew or should have known that the accident occurred at the time when it did occur; and (2) they failed to stop and render aid to accident victims as required under Florida law. It is important to know that Florida law does not require that the defendant was aware that the accident caused injury or death. It is enough that they failed to stop and render aid even though they knew an accident occurred. The standard in most vehicular manslaughter cases is recklessness, not intent – in other words, if the prosecution can prove that the defendant driver acted recklessly, the defendant will likely be found guilty. 

Sentences Often Hinge On Motivation

There is more than one type of vehicular manslaughter, and depending on which type you are charged with, a conviction can carry up to 30 years in prison plus up to 30 years’ probation, though many sentences wind up being between 9 and 15 years depending on the specific nature of the offense. First offenders are also eligible for programs which may reduce their sentence term, though such opportunities are not offered in every case. Generally, if you are convicted, it is because enough evidence exists to support not only that you acted in the way you did, but that the conduct was reckless.

The entire ability to convict in many vehicular manslaughter cases will hinge on whether or not your conduct at the time of the crash was reckless or not – for example, simply speeding is generally not enough to warrant a conviction unless it can be shown that your speed was grossly excessive. Florida specifically defines reckless driving as driving in “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Speeding is not “willful or wanton” in most cases; it is merely ill-advised.

Call A West Palm Beach Vehicular Manslaughter Attorney

Very few people ever intend to kill anyone. If you are unfortunate enough to have been through this kind of situation, you need a dedicated attorney who specializes in these matters to ensure that your rights are understood and protected in court. The West Palm Beach vehicular manslaughter attorneys at Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. are ready to work hard to ensure your side of the story is told. Call us today for personalized attention.

Resource:

flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2018/782.071

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