Involuntary Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide
In North Carolina, there are many, many forms of homicide, such as manslaughter, murder, and vehicular homicide. Some of our previous blogs have explored the more serious forms, such as first-and-second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. North Carolina also recognizes other less serious forms of homicide, such as involuntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide. We explore these forms of homicide in this blog.
Involuntary manslaughter is generally defined as the unintentional killing of another person resulting from negligence or criminal recklessness. Involuntary manslaughter in North Carolina is governed by N.C.G.S. 14-18. A person is guilty of this crime if he or she 1) kills 2) another living human being 3) by an unlawful act that does not amount to a felony and is not ordinarily dangerous to life, or by a culpably negligent act or omission.
Involuntary manslaughter is a Class F felony and is sentenced according to the felony sentencing guidelines. To put this into perspective, voluntary manslaughter is a Class D felony, which is two degrees higher than involuntary manslaughter.
Vehicular homicide in North Carolina encompasses many different charges. Vehicular homicide is governed by N.C.G.S. 20-141.4. The severity of the charges varies, ranging from a Class A1 misdemeanor to a Class D felony. Let’s look at the different types of vehicular homicide and related crimes.
Felony Death by Vehicle
A person will be found guilty of this offense in North Carolina if that person unintentionally causes the death of another person while engaged in impaired driving (under G.S. 20-138.1 or G.S. 20-138.2). The impaired driving must be the proximate cause of the death. It is not enough to simply show that the driver was engaged in drunk driving. The State must also show that this drunk driving was what caused the death.
Felony death by vehicle is a Class D felony, which is a high level felony in NC. If serious injury but no death occurs, the crime is called “felony serious injury by vehicle” and is punished as a Class F felony.
Aggravated Felony Death by Vehicle
Aggravated felony death by vehicle is the same as felony death by vehicle, with one additional requirement: the driver has a previous conviction involving impaired driving, as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a), within seven years of the date of the offense.
Like regular felony death by vehicle, this offense is punished as a Class D felony. However, it is sentenced in the aggravated range, making the punishment more severe. If serious injury but no death occurs, the crime is called “aggravated felony serious injury by vehicle” and is punished as a Class E felony.
Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle
A person is guilty of misdemeanor death by vehicle in North Carolina if that person unintentionally causes the death of another person while engage in the violation of any State law or local ordinance (other than DWI) that relates to the use/operation of a vehicle or the regulation of traffic. The commission of the offense must be the proximate cause of death. An example of misdemeanor death by vehicle is an unintentional death caused by speeding.
Misdemeanor death by vehicle is punished as a Class A1 misdemeanor. It follows North Carolina’s Misdemeanor Sentencing Guidelines.
If you have been charged with manslaughter or vehicular homicide in North Carolina, you should speak with an attorney. The criminal defense attorneys at Gilles Law can help you understand your options.