In most cases, accidental deaths caused by traffic accidents are not considered crimes. However, the state may charge a driver who kills another person with vehicular homicide in some circumstances.
When does an accidental death in an automobile accident become vehicular homicide?
Circumstances that may lead to a vehicular homicide charge
The state may charge a driver who causes the death of another person with vehicular homicide if the driver was guilty of one or more illegal activities:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Violating Iowa’s reckless driving laws
- Fleeing from the police
- Driving in an illegal drag race
Penalties for vehicular homicide
The penalties for vehicular homicide vary depending on the circumstance. If the offense involves an OWI, the vehicular homicide charge is a class B felony that carries up to a 25-year prison sentence and a six-year loss of license. For charges that result from reckless driving or fleeing an officer, it is a class C felony that may result in up to 10 years in prison and $1,000 to $10,000 in fines. Drag racing offenses are class D felonies and carry a penalty of up to five years of prison time and $750 to $7,000 in fines. Additionally, all vehicular homicide convictions that do not involve OWI may result in a one-year loss of license.
Many factors play a role in the severity of punishment a driver convicted of vehicular homicide may face. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help drivers facing these serious charges.