By: William C. Head, Veteran Vehicular Homicide Attorney in Atlanta Since 1976
Comparing Florida to Georgia, the laws for each type of death case involve inherently dangerous types of driving offenses. Each state’s Legislature writes the laws that outline what driving behavior justifies a felony vehicular homicide sentence (GA) or felony vehicular manslaughter sentence (FL).
Vehicular homicide in Georgia and vehicular manslaughter charges in Florida are similar in that each statute creates felony charges. The state of Georgia has an involuntary manslaughter law, but it does not apply to vehicular crimes causing deaths. Other states, like Ohio, have stratified their statutes to define aggravated vehicular manslaughter as being drunk behind the wheel.
The two states are both criminalizing punishment for drunk driving and killing someone. Florida vehicular manslaughter jail time carries the same draconian maximum punishment as Georgia in its DUI vehicular manslaughter definition, for driving drunk and killing someone: 15 years in a state prison sentence. Plus, the unintentional vehicular manslaughter law in FL is very much like negligent vehicular homicide in GA in that neither is based on intent to kill or has an element of malice aforethought.
The criminal vehicular homicide definition in Georgia involves a death of another human being at the hands of a driver engaging in gross negligence while being behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. by engaging in some serious driving behavior (as set forth in OCGA 40-6-393, that puts others at a high risk of suffering either a fatality or serious bodily injury.
Only these specified felony vehicular homicide crimes will support felony first degree homicide by vehicle in the Peach State. For any other vehicular homicide GA crimes that are not part of the five deadly, serious traffic violations faces only misdemeanor punishment of a maximum jail time of 12 months.
So, the underlying traffic violation controls misdemeanor vs felony homicide by vehicle charges in GA. The second degree VH wording is as follows: “commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the second degree when such violation is the cause of said death and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as provided in Code Section 17-10-3.”
Georgia 1st degree vehicular homicide charges may occur by the violation of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-163 (passing a stopped school bus with stop arm activated, and discharging passengers), Code Section 40-6-390 (reckless driving) or 40-6-391 (DUI by alcohol, drugs or controlled substances), or subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-395 (attempting to elude an officer) commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the first degree and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than 15 years.
The crime of leaving the scene of an accident fatality (hit and run) is also one of the 5 deadly motor vehicle violations of the Georgia vehicular homicide law. This predicate offense is separately defined as being a person who “causes an accident which causes the death of another person and leaves the scene of the accident in violation of subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-270,” can be found guilty of the same felony vehicular homicide charges.
A sixth type of criminal vehicular homicide driver (for those who are already prohibited from being behind the wheel of ANY motor vehicle due to habitual violator status), when an accident result in the death or another, is identified as follows:
Any person who:
(1) after being declared a habitual violator as determined under Code Section 40-5-58 and while such person’s license is in revocation,
(2) causes the death of another person, without malice aforethought, by operation of a motor vehicle,
(3) commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the first degree; and
(4) upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five years nor more than 20 years.
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
· Too fast for conditions
From over four decades and defending in excess of 100 homicide by vehicle GA cases, the author cannot emphasize enough the value of quick, decisive action after a death occurs. Accident reconstruction often plays a key role in successfully defending vehicular homicide cases, but vital evidence can be lost if the expert cannot go to the scene immediately and find all vehicles before that critical evidence is lost.
Plus, eyewitness statements shortly after a deadly accident can be important. However, in some cases police either overlook or do not identify a person (in their police reports) whose account of what happened varies from their “conclusions.” In Georgia, police officers and District Attorneys usually will “stack on” charges of reckless driving as a second predicate driving offense that caused the crash, in case the impaired driving cannot be proven (to the jury’s satisfaction) at trial.
If a witness points out that the victim may have caused the wreck, and his or her statement conflicts with how the law enforcement officers see the case, such statements may be omitted. If a law enforcement officer has already decided what happened, and skews his or her report, this is a high hurdle for the criminal defense lawyer to overcome.
An experienced vehicular homicide lawyer from our law firm can help you fight these charges, which are based on driving under the influence, most commonly. Don’t merely look for lawyers near me, since that could be a Georgia attorney with zero vehicular homicide experience or victories.
As you can see, these issues can be life-changing, since what is at stake are very serious charges with potentially very serious penalties attached. Do not need to give up all hope.
The sooner an accused citizen obtains the assistance of a DUI attorney with vast prior experience in vehicular homicide Georgia cases, the better your chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. Because our award-winning criminal defense attorneys in Atlanta offer a FREE consultation, why not call now?
Our law office attorneys work 7 days a week, including holidays and weekends, since these misdemeanor vs felony cases are THAT important to attack ASAP. Larry Kohn, ex-cop Cory Yager, and the author work together to find the best outcome for each GA VH case. Dial 404-567-5515 for a FREE lawyer consultation.
While Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Cobb County and DeKalb County in metro Atlanta GA have about 35% of all misdemeanor or felony vehicular homicide Georgia cases, our criminal law firm attorneys go statewide, working with local lawyers nearby your court location. Call our law group now. Since the information is FREE, what do you have to lose?
Don’t give up, just because you cannot see any way to win. If you think that your VH case is hopeless, read this recent vehicular homicide case report of a week-long DeKalb County VH trial with a life-changing, favorable outcome for our client.
Other related links: