What Constitutes Vehicular Homicide in Nevada?
Vehicular homicide is a very serious DUI-related offense in the State of Nevada. The penalties and consequences of a conviction are severe. If you face a vehicular homicide charge, representation by an experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential.
Statutory Definition of Vehicular Homicide
Nevada law defines vehicular homicide in NRS. 484C.130. The offense occurs when a person driving or physically controlling a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or another substance (as defined in the statute) causes the death of another person, and the driver has three or more prior DUI convictions.
The statutory definition includes important requirements, all of which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor to obtain a conviction. The requirements are:
- The person drove or physically controlled a vehicle on or off a state highway.
- While driving or in control of the vehicle, the person was under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or another substance or combination of substances, as defined in the statute. In some — but not all — situations, the presence of specific levels of alcohol or certain substances is sufficient to support the charge. In other circumstances, the substance must render the person incapable of safely driving or exercising control of the vehicle.
- While driving or in physical control of the vehicle, the person proximately caused the death of another person.
- The person had three or more prior DUI convictions at the time of the incident. It does not matter when the convictions occurred. There is no time limit on how long ago the convictions took place.
To constitute the offense, all these statutory requirements must be met.
Penalties for Vehicular Homicide
Vehicular homicide is a category A felony that carries a potential prison term of 25 years to life. Parole may be possible after ten years of the term is served. A conviction also results in suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license for a three-year period.
Unlike most Nevada criminal convictions, the record of a felony DUI conviction can never be sealed under state law. A conviction for vehicular homicide remains on the defendant’s record for forever. Even if the person obtains release on parole, the consequences of the conviction affect many aspects of life, including employment, housing, and more.
On account of the severity of the penalties and consequences, it is imperative to get assistance from a lawyer to defend aggressively against any charge of vehicular homicide.
Difference Between Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Manslaughter
Vehicular homicide is a different crime from vehicular manslaughter, which is defined in NRS 484B.657. Vehicular manslaughter occurs when a driver causes the death of another person through an act or omission that constitutes simple negligence. In contrast to vehicular homicide, which is a category A felony, vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor that carries potential penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Vehicular homicide is also different from the offense of DUI causing death under NRS 484C.430, which is a category B felony. The charge of DUI causing death does not require three prior DUI convictions like vehicular homicide.
Defending Against a Vehicular Homicide Charge
The only effective way to defend against a vehicular homicide charge is to obtain representation by a seasoned DUI and criminal defense attorney. A vehicular homicide charge involves complex legal and factual issues that provide a broad basis for developing an effective defense strategy. The defense in a particular case depends on the actual facts and circumstances surrounding the charge.
Possible defenses in a vehicular homicide charge include challenging evidence relating to the cause of the accident to disprove that the defendant caused the death. Undermining evidence of alcohol or drug influence at the time of the accident is also another potential strategy. In addition, demonstrating police conduct during the arrest and investigation may also be an effective defense.
In some cases, successfully challenging part of the evidence in a vehicular homicide case may result in prosecution for a lesser charge, such as vehicular manslaughter, DUI causing death, or reckless driving. Having representation by a knowledgeable DUI and criminal defense attorney is particularly important for that reason.
Legal representation in any DUI, DUID, or DUI-related charge is crucial. As illustrated by the elements of vehicular homicide, DUI convictions have a cumulative effect in terms of the severity of subsequent charges and penalties. Due to that fact, even a first DUI charge warrants obtaining an experienced DUI attorney.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney
If you face a vehicular homicide charge or any other DUI or DUI-related charge in Las Vegas, attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His investigative background, trial experience, and criminal defense focus significantly benefit anyone facing any DUI-related charges.
The Gersten Law Firm assists clients facing any state or federal criminal charges in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.