The criminal charge of vehicular homicide was created by the Florida legislature to cover the gap between manslaughter under Florida Statute Section 782.07 and the criminal offense of reckless driving. McCreary v. Florida, 371 So.2d 1024 (Florida 1979). As a result, the distinction between a simple traffic infraction and the criminal offense of vehicular homicide is sometimes difficult to determine.
Florida Statute Section 782.071 provides that vehicular homicide is the killing of another person by the operation of a motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause great bodily injury or death to another individual. The criminal offense of vehicular homicide requires proving the elements of the lesser included offense of reckless driving. Chikitus v. Shands, 373 So.2d 904 (Florida 1979).
Not every car accident that results in someone being killed will result in sufficient evidence to support a conviction for vehicular manslaughter in Florida. Before a reckless driving conviction can occur, the prosecutor generally must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the driver is guilty of negligence as defined in the vehicular homicide statute under Florida law. Jackson v. Florida, 100 So.2d 839 (Florida 1st DCA 1958).
If reckless conduct cannot be proven as required under Florida law, then the defense should win a motion to dismiss prior to trial or a motion for directed judgment of acquittal at trial for the offense of vehicular homicide.
Attorney for Vehicular Homicide in Tampa, FL
One of the most serious charges under Florida law is for vehicular homicide after the driver is accused of causing the death of another person while driving a vehicle in a negligent manner likely to cause death or serious injury.
Under Florida Law, vehicular homicide is a serious second-degree felony punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000 fine. If the driver is convicted of vehicular homicide under Florida law, then the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles must impose a minimum three (3) year revocation of the driver's license after any period of incarceration is served. The penalties are even more serious when the driver is also accussed of leaving the scene of the crash involving vehicular homicide.
If you were involved in a car accident involving a fatality, it is important to seek out the services of an attorney. Our offices are conveniently located in downtown Tampa, FL, just a few blocks from the courthouse. We also have a second office in New Port Richey, across from the courthouse at the West Pasco Judicial Center.
Contact an experienced Tampa DUI Lawyer at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your criminal charge for Vehicular Homicide in Florida, including Tampa and Hillsborough County.
Proximate Cause in a Vehicular Homicide Case
Did the actions of the Defendant really cause the death? In many vehicular homicide cases, the issue of proximate cause is the focus of the trial.
At trial, the prosecutor must prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the operation of the vehicle in a negligent manner was likely to cause the specific harm that occurred, the great bodily injury or death of another person.
In a prosecution for vehicular homicide under Florida law, the jury should often be instructed that reckless driving is a lesser included offense when the cause of death is disputed.
Jury Instruction for Vehicular Homicide under Florida Law
The standard jury instruction under Florida law for vehicular homicide provide that prior to the defendant being found guilty of the offense, the jury must find that he operated the motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause the great bodily injury or death to another person. The prosecutor in Florida is not generally required to provide that the person arrested intended to harm or serious injury another individual. Williamson v. Florida, 510 So.2d 335 (Florida 4th DCA 1987).
Vehicular Homicide Involving an Allegation of Racing
“The death which proximately resulted from the activities of three persons engaged in the unlawful activity of drag racing made each of the active participants equally guilty of the criminal act which caused the death of the innocent party.” Jacobs v. State, 184 So.2d 711, 716 (Fla. 1st DCA 1966).
“A driver-participant in an illegal ‘drag race’ on a public road cannot be held criminally responsible for the death of another driver participant when (a) the decease, in effect, kills himself by his own reckless driving during a race, (b) the sole basis for attaching criminal liability for his death is the defendant’s participation in the ‘drag race’.” Velazquez v. State, 561 So.2d 347, 352 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990).
Charges of Leaving the Scene of a Vehicular Homicide
Under Florida law, the criminal charge of Vehicular Homicide / Leaving the Scene can be charged as a First Degree Felony punishable by up to thirty (30) years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000 fine. If the defendant also leaves the scene of the crash, then an additional element must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt - that the driver left the scene of an accident after he knew or should have known that the accident occurred.
The element of willful leaving of the scene of an accident is an element and must generally be alleged in the information and proven at trial. For example, In Sullivan v. Florida, 562 So.2d 813 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), the appellate court found reversible error when the defendant was sentenced to a second-degree felony under Florida Statute Section 782.072(2) when he was convicted of vehicular homicide as a lesser offense of manslaughter and of leaving the scene of the accident in separate counts.
Finding an Attorney for Vehicular Homicide / Leaving the Scene in Hillsborough County, FL
The experienced Tampa DUI Lawyers at the Sammis Law Firm in Hillsborough County, Florida, are available to answer your questions about charges for vehicular homicide or leaving the scene of the crash.
We are experienced in representing clients charged with crimes that occur in a vehicle. From misdemeanor offenses such as DUI or reckless driving, to the more serious felony offenses of leaving the scene of a crash after a death, we understand the best way to mount an aggressive defense.
Contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss the charges pending against you, the potential penalties that come with that charge, and the best way to fight the charges.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, November 21, 2018.