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Vehicular Homicide GA: Felony VH or Misdemeanor VH Explained

 

By: Cory Yager, Georgia Vehicular Homicide Attorney for Misdemeanor or Felony Vehicle Homicide Cases

Vehicular homicide GA legal professionals, Larry Kohn and Cory Yager. Experienced vehicular homicide attorney specialists in DUI defense. Both are co-authors on legal articles about Georgia DUI laws.

This article addresses the criminal vehicular homicide definition in the Peach State, when either a vehicular homicide DUI, hit and run, or reckless driving offense occurs by the at fault driver. For such felonies, vehicular homicide jail time can be significant. This is even though both felony or misdemeanor crimes are accidental vehicular homicide, unintentional vehicular homicide, or negligent vehicular homicide, and not an intentional crime, like aggravated assault, battery, or murder.

How long is the sentence for vehicular homicide? The sentence for a driver charged with vehicular homicide (DUI death) is up to one year in jail per death for a misdemeanor, but up to 15 years per injury or death for felony crimes.

In simple terms, if an ordinary traffic offense (e.g., stop sign violation, failure to yield, following too closely, or running a red light) leads to another person’s death, then second degree vehicular homicide Georgia statutes apply.

What Are the Five Felony Vehicular Homicide Predicate Driving Offenses in GA?

Under Georgia laws, the felony crime difference comes from drivers who are engaging in high-risk behavior before driving. Law enforcement officers are taught to look for evidence of these more serious traffic crimes, and to (therefore) accuse the offense in a manner to support using these serious traffic offenses as the “predicate” motor vehicle crime to accuse felony VH in GA.

These legislatively identified driving behaviors include reckless driving as found in OCGA 40 6 390, driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, drugs or any other substance proscribed in Georgia Code 40 6 391, attempting to elude a police officer under OCGA 40 6 395, hit and run under GA Code 40 6 270 (the crime is also known as leaving the scene of an accident), or passing a stopped school bus discharging its passengers (under OCGA 40 6 163).

How much time do you get for vehicular homicide? Very few states have homicide by vehicle felony laws with longer prison time that Georgia. Read this entire article to lean how our criminal defense attorneys in Atlanta have been able to evaluate the facts of each case and then take steps to help prevent a harsh prison sentence.

Vehicular Homicide Drunk Driving leads the Number of Cases each Year. The largest number of felony vehicular homicide Georgia cases each year, however, are accused as vehicular homicide by intoxication, as a 1st degree vehicular homicide case.

Statewide criminal defense of homicide by vehicle cases in Georgia by a law firm with over 100 prior cases to its credit, felony and misdemeanor. Free lawyer consultation, so call today.

Therefore, hiring DUI law experts is essential to finding your best outcome. Our three lawyers for DUI near me are not only experienced but travel the entire state of Georgia to defend these highly important criminal law cases.

Vehicular Homicide GA: Felony or Misdemeanor Homicide by Vehicle

This article discusses how a criminal defense lawyer can have a favorable impact by having an early involvement in some serious cases. Depending on the jurisdiction and facts, criminal lawyers near me may be able to convince a prosecutor to accuse the case as a misdemeanor vehicle homicide, and not a felony. This step (when made early in the process) is undertaken to try to control the maximum vehicular homicide GA sentence.

The effort does not always work, especially where the BAC level of a drunk driver exceeds the legal limit, but has been successful before in some DUI-drugs cases, and low-alcohol BAC level cases. The most successful cases are those where action can be taken in the first week or two following a death by motor vehicle, for which our client has been arrested for some other traffic violation.

In GA, how long do you go to jail for vehicular homicide? Multiple factors control this answer. Often, the facts of the case can be either very helpful or very negative. In 2021 and after, almost all cases will have some on-the-scene video footage from police cameras.

Beyond that, when family members are screaming for vengeance, the battle for a negotiated resolution will be an uphill battle, even though it is involuntary vehicular homicide. The assigned judge can also be a huge factor, since many Superior Court judges have arbitrarily set a minimum prison sentence in their heads (e.g., 5 years for a first offender).

All Motor Vehicle Homicide Cases Are for the Unintentional Killing of Another

Under Georgia’s motor vehicle laws, which are sometimes called “rules of the road,” homicide by vehicle, (or “vehicular homicide” or “vehicle homicide”) is the unintentional killing of another person while operating a car, truck, motorcycle, SUV, or other motorized vehicle while committing SOME type of moving violation.

At sentencing, how many years is vehicular homicide? Any vehicular homicide in the second degree such as texting while driving has a maximum incarceration term of 12 months at a county detention center. This is starkly different from a 1st degree homicide by vehicle, that comes with a potential state prison sentence of up to 15 years in state prison for each death, which can be sentenced consecutively in Georgia.

Vehicular Homicide Georgia Code. Georgia homicide by vehicle laws (under OCGA 40-6-393), delineate between minor traffic offenses (misdemeanor homicide) and the five (5) statutorily identified serious traffic offenses (first degree vehicular homicide by vehicle) by making the latter offenses felonies, and the former misdemeanors.

Special felony Georgia Vehicular Homicide statute for school bus drivers. In addition, under O.C.G.A. 40-6-391.3, Georgia DUI laws, since any driver of a school bus commits a felony by operating a school bus while driving under the influence, any accident with passenger injuries (even minor ones) would likely be harshly punished, even if limited to second degree vehicular homicide counts (e.g., if the bus driver merely failed to yield the right of way). The maximum jail sentence is 12 months, but this is per death.

Misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide – Second Degree Homicide by Vehicle

Any misdemeanor traffic violation that is the proximate cause for the death of another person can be accused as a second-degree vehicular homicide case. By the way of example, these common traffic citations are among the most underlying misdemeanor traffic offenses leading to a Georgia 2nd degree homicide by vehicle charge:

  • Running a red light
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign
  • Failure to yield right of way
  • Failure to maintain lane
  • Speeding or super speeder GA violation
  • Too fast for conditions
  • Distracted driving such as texting while driving

What Happens When Multiple Deaths Occur In One Accident?

Intent to harm, or malice, has never been an “element” of unintentionally causing the death of another person in a motor-related vehicle accident. Both types of vehicular homicide in GA, in the 1st degree or 2nd degree, do not require that the driver MEANT to kill another person. Yet, felony punishment follows any of the 5 proscribed serious driving offenses identified above, that our Legislature has made into felony vehicular homicide crimes.

When multiple deaths occur, the State with file separate charges for each death, and the charges do not “merge.” These means that a separate “count” (criminal charge) naming each, separate deceased or seriously injured person will be presented to the jury for adjudication.

Sentences can either be concurrent (all served at the same time) or consecutive (stacked, end to end). With four deaths, for felony vehicular homicide Georgia, concurrent sentencing could mean as little as 3 years, but consecutive sentencing for four deaths can mean as much as 60 years in a Georgia state prison.

Constitutional challenges have been made to the legal issue of a judge “stacking” the state prison time or county jail sentence of persons causing more than one death, either by a second-degree homicide by vehicle or first-degree homicide by vehicle in Georgia. The argument was basically that only ONE incident (accident) occurred, so stacking sentences was not fair.

The case that ruled such sentencing was constitutional in Cox v State, 243 Ga. App. 668 (2000). In the Cox case, three deaths were caused by a DUI driver (Cox) and the judge — on a guilty plea — sentenced the convicted drunk driver to 45 years (15 years consecutive sentences times three fatalities), with the first 36 years in state prison and the balance on probation.

The court of appeals of Georgia held that “even though done at the same time with one stroke of the same death-dealing instrument (a motor vehicle), while the stroke was one transaction, the killing of different persons with that stroke constitutes several criminal transactions.” So, when multiple deaths occur, a Georgia vehicular homicide sentence can have consecutive sentencing.

DUI Per Se and DUI Less Safe Both Support First Degree Vehicular Homicide

First degree vehicular homicide in GA by DUI can be proven either by a DUI per se or DUI less safe. Georgia DUI laws allow conviction of driving under the influence multiple ways, including simply having an unlawful blood alcohol level at the time of driving event that led to the person’s death, which does not necessitate that negligent, errant or bad driving was involved.

Georgia appellate courts have broadly embraced and upheld driving under the influence

convictions even where the accused driver may not have been at fault and have anchored the conviction on merely being over the legal limit. So, if an underage driver is convicted of a DUI by being over the legal limit for drivers under age 21, and the “number” was below the presumed impairment level under GA-DUI laws – OCGA 40-6-392(b) — he or she still can be convicted and sentenced under the felony homicide law in Georgia.

See David v. State, 261 Ga. App. 468 (2003). [NOTE: This is a case that Atlanta DUI lawyer William C. Head appealed, after Mr. David’s first lawyer convinced him to plead guilty to a case that should have gone to trial but did not].

Georgia “Hit and Run” Law Requires Driver to Stop, Render Aid, and Identify Self

Where a single death occurred WITHOUT any direct impact between the vehicle of the deceased driver and the accused homicide by vehicle GA motorist, conviction for reckless driving and a hit and run can be sustained, and a jury verdict upheld an appeal. Eyewitness testimony and documentary proof of the identity of the person owing or renting a car can support convictions of motor vehicle crimes, including reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident, where the egregiously bad and dangerous driving of the accused driver were proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

While the convicted driver did not directly impact the other vehicle, recklessly cutting in front of the other vehicle and causing that car to veer off the road and strike trees is enough proof. The driver’s action of going to the rental car company to switch to another vehicle with a different tag was part of the proof of his knowledge for having caused the accident. Bell v. State, 293 Ga. 683 (2013).

A constitutional challenge based upon self-incrimination (that occurred by having to stay at the scene, unrepresented by a criminal lawyer) by being statutorily required to not leave the scene (OCGA 40-6-270) was rejected in the Bell case. In Bell, the appellate court pointed out that because no confession or conversation with police was required. The at-fault driver merely had to remain at the scene of the collision and provide identification (name and address).

Bell had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on felony homicide by vehicle by reckless driving, plus another 5 years to serve consecutively, for leaving the scene of this accident. Of the 20 total years, the trial judge required the first twelve (12) years to be served in prison.

Felony vs Misdemeanor – Georgia Feticide by Vehicle

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 under 40-6-391. This felony statute limits the underlying serious driving offenses that pertain to felony homicide by vehicle cases to just DUI or reckless driving.

Although the state of Georgia 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 can be pursued, if caused by any other driving offense except reckless driving and DUI will be accused as misdemeanors. This includes the other 3 underlying serious offenses of hit and run, attempting to elude, and passing a stopped school bus. The Georgia Legislature omitted these from inclusion in the felony punishment sections.

Penalties for Vehicle Homicide and Feticide by Vehicle

Most people charged with either of these serious offenses are primarily concerned about prison time or jail time. Most families of accused citizens facing first degree vehicular in GA are appalled to learn the maximum penalty for vehicular homicide Georgia.

Vehicular Homicide Georgia sentencing. The statutes pertaining to these serious motor vehicle offenses focus a minimum and maximum prison time for felony offenses but leaves 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.

Plea bargain vehicular homicide. Of course, as with other crimes, both sides can have input about the vehicular homicide sentence Georgia. The presence of distraught family members can sometimes sway the Judge to impose tough vehicle homicide sentencing, especially in a DUI vehicular homicide.

Georgia Code Section for Felony Offense Minimum and Maximum Prison Time

(a) OCGA 40-6-393 Vehicular Homicide Three (3) years to Fifteen (15) Years or (for vehicular feticide) or under

(b) OCGA 40-6-393.1 – (b)(1) Vehicular Feticide Three (3) years to Fifteen (15) Years

Cory Yager, ex-police officer with nearly a decade of vehicular accidents investigated. After graduating law school as the #2 graduate, he joined board-certified DUI lawyer Bubba Head as an associate attorney. Georgia Super Lawyer and Martindale-Hubbell highest attorney ratings.

Vehicle homicide attorneys Larry Kohn and ex-cop-turned-attorney Cory Yager are currently fighting multiple high-profile serious injury and homicide by vehicle cases, and are willing to provide you with an in-depth, professional case assessment. Your vehicular homicide lawyer must have extensive experience in analyzing your Georgia VH case facts and finding a “manageable” solution for your case.

When he was a police officer, Mr. Yager investigated many motor vehicle fatality cases. Each Partner brings his own skills and training to defending criminal cases, whether the motor vehicle accident cases were misdemeanor or felony Georgia vehicular homicide cases. Few other Georgia firms have handled over 100 cases, as ours has. Almost none have taken cases to trial and won, but our firm has.

Our legal team also has experienced contacts in EVERY state, for vehicular manslaughter, vehicle murder or homicide by vehicle cases occurring outside Georgia. In your free lawyer consultation, our legal professionals will provide that information.

Call today and get honest answers from our criminal law attorneys to all your Atlanta homicide by vehicle questions. Tell our criminal defense attorneys everything that happened and everything you remember about your accident, any hospital testing, the process of your booking and arrest. The sooner you call us, the better opportunity we will have to win your case and possibly get your vehicular homicide charges reduced or dismissed.

Remember, that if your pending vehicle homicide case also involves a driving under the influence arrest, you only have 30 DAYS to file a license suspension appeal or apply for an ignition interlock device, or your driver’s license will be suspended for up to one year!

Larry Kohn is an AVVO superstar with over 510 FIVE-star lawyer ratings by clients. A 23 year veteran DUI attorney, he began working with Bubba Head in 1996, as a law clerk. Also recognized as being part of Best lawyers in America.

Call our criminal law professionals, Larry Kohn, or Cory Yager now. Our law group is available 24 hours a day, weekends, and all major holidays. Get your FREE lawyer consultation today. (404) 567-5515

Our Law Firm Metro Atlanta DUI Attorneys Near Me:

MAIN LAW OFFICE IN SANDY SPRINGS, GEORGIA:

5600 Roswell Road

Building H, #210

Sandy Springs, GA 30352

DOWNTOWN ATLANTA GA LOCATION:

235 Peachtree Street NE

Suite 400

Atlanta, GA 30303

MARIETTA, COBB COUNTY LOCATION:

109 Anderson Street

Suite 103

Marietta, GA 30060

ALPHARETTA-ROSWELL-MILTON LOCATION in North Fulton County, GA:

33 S Main St

Suite 300-B

Alpharetta, GA 30009

More legal information about our three partners can be found below:

Board Certified in DUI Defense by the American Bar Association

Martindale-Hubbell 5.0 ratings, and “av preeminent” highest possible rating for ethics and skill

Best Lawyers in America

Best Law Firms in America

Three Super Lawyers practicing DUI and traffic crime defense, including felony vehicular homicide GA. Sharing over 30 legal services recognitions between then, the three law partners cover all of the Peach State for criminal defense.

Super Lawyers for William C. HeadCory Yager and Lawrence (Larry) Kohn

 

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MAIN LAW OFFICE IN SANDY
SPRINGS, GEORGIA:
5600 Roswell Rd
Building H, #210
Sandy Springs, GA 30352
(404) 567-5515
DOWNTOWN ATLANTA GA
LOCATION:
235 Peachtree Street NE
Suite 400
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 567-5515
MARIETTA, GA LOCATION
in Cobb County, GA:
109 Anderson Street
Suite 103
Marietta, GA 30060
(888) 274-6288
ALPHARETTA-ROSWELL-MILTON
LOCATION
in North Fulton County, GA:
33 S Main St
Suite 302
Alpharetta, GA 30009
(844) 867-2889