By: William C. Head, DUI Lawyer Atlanta and Vehicular Homicide Georgia Attorney
When a person dies as a result of a vehicle homicide in Georgia, a guilty plea to the criminal charges can create civil liability for the wrongful death, and other related medical bills and funeral charges.
In DUI homicide cases like this, your selected criminal defense attorney should guide you to a skilled personal injury attorney to help you avoid being responsible for a huge restitution bill that could take decades to pay off.
Under Georgia law, OCGA 17-14-2 (2) covers the types of civil damages for a DUI vehicular homicide tort claim that can be ordered by the sentencing court. However, no such order of restitution can be made if the responsible party had previously settled and obtained a written release, or can prove that the pending civil case was dismissed with prejudice after a settlement was paid. Taylor v State, 295 Ga. App. 689 (2009).
Since 1991, Georgia has had an additional felony law relating to causing the death of an unborn baby by causing injury to the mother by either committing reckless driving under OCGA 40-6-390, or DUI homicide under 40-6-391. This felony statute limits the underlying serious driving offenses that pertain to felony homicide by vehicle cases.
Although George once defined “feticide” as being at a certain stage of viability (to live on its own, outside the womb), the law was amended to now make the determination as being “at any stage of development”. This code section is OCGA 40-6-393.1
Like with homicide by vehicle, a 2nd degree feticide caused by any other driving offense except reckless driving and DUI will be accused as misdemeanors. For vehicular feticide Georgia felony cases, the other three omitted serious driving offenses (hit and run, attempting to elude and officer and passing a stopped school bus) are not categorized se “predicate” serious offenses for the vehicle feticide laws.
Similar to the Vehicular Feticide law set forth above, the felony Serious Injury by Vehicle in GA only applies to vehicular homicide by reckless driving or DUI vehicular homicide. Unlike vehicular homicide or feticide by vehicle, no corresponding law exists for other misdemeanor traffic violations that lead to serious injuries for an unborn child.
Thus, simply running a red light, or not fully stopping before going through a stop sign or following too closely — unless rising to the level of reckless driving — will not trigger a serious bodily injury case in Georgia, for an unborn child. So far, the Georgia legislature has not expanded the serious injury by vehicle statute to cover such injuries. This code section is OCGA 40-6-394.
Most people charged with any of these serious offenses are primarily concerned about prison time or jail time. The statutes pertaining to these serious motor vehicle offenses focus a minimum and maximum prison time for felony offenses, but leave the misdemeanor offenses on homicide by vehicle and Vehicular Feticide to the discretion of the judge, which is from 0 days to 12 months in the county jail.
Below is a chart showing minimum and maximum incarceration time for these three different felony offenses in Georgia (per victim):
Additionally, obtaining a civil settlement (if possible) is particularly critical in DUI-related, feticide, or serious bodily injury or death cases, since federal bankruptcy laws prohibit any civil damages or judgment from being discharged in a bankruptcy case. This means the amount owed can be collected indefinitely, against the responsible driver, who cannot file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Under 11 U.S.C.A. § 523 (a) (9), any debt “for death” or personal injury caused by the debtor’s operation was unlawful because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol, a drug, or another substance.
So, settling any vehicular homicide civil cases or serious injury by vehicle civil cases before the DUI criminal case goes to court can be a life-changing issue. In a previous section that focused on assuring that civil injury and death issues are being simultaneously addressed, the issue of restitution being ordered as part of the judges’ resolution of the criminal case can be a financial burden paralleling the pain of being put behind bars.
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Vehicular homicide lawyer William C. “Bubba” Head is a criminal defense attorney with 41 years of criminal litigation experience. During those 41 years Mr. Head has handled over 125 felony vehicular homicide and serious injury criminal cases for clients facing decades of potential prison time for their respective criminal charges. For a FREE lawyer consultation, call our criminal attorneys NOW, day or night. 404-567-5515, or toll free at 1-888-384-4323.
Serious injury lawyer Larry Kohn and ex-cop-turned-attorney Cory Yager are currently fighting multiple high profile serious injury and homicide by vehicle cases. Every partner in our Law Firm is willing to provide you with an in-depth, professional case assessment. Each Partner brings his own skills and training to defending criminal cases, whether misdemeanor or felony.
Mr. Head’s DUI law firm has two other partners that also handle as many or more vehicular homicide felony and misdemeanor offenses as Mr. Head, and both partners have been with Mr. Head since law school.
Consult with the criminal defense attorney in Atlanta that is a Board-Certified DUI defense lawyer.