In Tennessee, vehicular homicide is defined as the "reckless killing of another by the operation of an automobile, airplane, boat or other motor vehicle." This is a very serious charge, and the penalties are severe.
You may be shocked to find yourself in this situation because you never thought you would be charged with a homicide. After all, for most people the word “homicide” means a grisly murder committed with malice. However, if you’ve been out for a night on the town, had too much to drink, and an accident resulted in a death, you can be charged with this serious crime. That’s all it takes.
To be guilty of the crime of vehicular homicide, you need only have acted with recklessness. That means that, unlike many crimes, you don’t need to have intended that the consequences occur; you need only to have been reckless in your actions. Being “reckless” means that you acted with conscious disregard to circumstances that created a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death or serious bodily injury to the victim.
One of the main ways this crime is proven is through DUI. Having a blood alcohol limit in excess of the legal limit is often proof of recklessness sufficient to prove the charges. Another primary way this crime is proven is showing that a death occurred as a result of drag racing. Absent these two types of common recklessness, a driver can be convicted by proving any other type of recklessness or conscious disregard.
Most vehicular homicides in Tennessee (except those involving intoxication) are Class C felonies. If drugs or alcohol are involved, the offense is usually a Class B felony. The penalties for Class B felonies are serious and can include jail time, serious fines, and the loss of your driver’s license. Further, a court can prohibit a defendant convicted of vehicular homicide from driving a vehicle in the state for a period of three to ten years.
Obviously, vehicular homicide is a serious charge and a conviction can result in prison time and hefty penalties.
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