According to the CDC, auto deaths are the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. If you or your loved one has been arrested for vehicular manslaughter in Palm Beach County, FL, it’s in your best interest to get a seasoned lawyer as soon as possible. This will give them enough time to analyze your case details and come up with a winning strategy, ultimately preserving your rights.
The impact of a conviction is long-lasting, and having an aggressive lawyer will increase your chances of winning the case. If you’re facing vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges in Palm Beach, FL, here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know.
What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Based on Florida Statute Section 782.071, vehicular manslaughter is the criminal act of engaging in illegal driving conduct, resulting in the death of another person. It also covers the death of an unborn child caused by the serious bodily injuries sustained by the mother. Under the Florida Statutes Section 316.192, reckless driving is referred to as driving with willful disregard for other people’s or property safety. Some examples of illegal driving behaviors or gross negligence include over-speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and reckless driving.
It’s important to note that if the vehicular manslaughter was caused by reckless driving, the prosecutor has no legal obligation to show your intent to kill, as is the norm in murder cases. For instance, if the crash occurred because you were driving under the influence, it won’t matter that the accident was preventable or the other party was also at fault. You will face legal action simply because you were under the influence, which ultimately resulted in the death of another person.
In Palm Beach, FL, the Traffic Homicide Unit of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office is responsible for investigating these cases. It reviews all traffic fatality cases, including those where the responsible party flees the scene of the accident.
Is There a Difference between Vehicular Manslaughter and Fatal Accidents?
Fatal accidents can be caused by factors beyond the driver’s control, e.g., a tire blowout or bad weather. In such instances, there’s very little that the driver could have done to prevent the accident. For you to be charged with vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide, the state has to prove that the accident which led to another person’s or a viable fetus’s death was caused by the driver’s reckless driving or negligence.
There’s also a slight difference between vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide. The degree of culpability needed to sustain a vehicular manslaughter conviction is higher than that of vehicular homicide. In Florida, the leading cause of vehicular manslaughter is driving under the influence, and the state district attorneys and law enforcement prosecute this crime vigorously.
You should note that even though the death of the other person doesn’t occur at the scene of the accident, you may still be charged. A great example would be the victim dying as they receive treatment at the hospital due to the Serious Bodily Injury that they sustained.
What Are the Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in Palm Beach, FL?
Under Florida Statute Section 782.071, vehicular homicide is a felony of the first or second degree that is punishable, as is highlighted in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. For felonies in the first degree, you should have known or already knew that the accident occurred but failed to render aid or give information. This means that even if you didn’t know that a death occurred as a result of your reckless driving, as long as you had knowledge or should have known about the accident, you’d still be charged with vehicular homicide.
The penalty for vehicular manslaughter in the first degree is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison. For second-degree vehicular homicide, the penalties include a $10,000 fine and a prison sentence of up to 15 years. In addition to this, the court may also order that you serve 120 hours of community service in hospitals or trauma centers that deal with auto accident victims under the supervision of an authorized medical professional.
Both penalties are strict and come with long-lasting implications, such as experiencing a hard time getting decent jobs after the prison term, losing your driving privileges, losing your rights to vote, and losing contact with family members. This is why it’s critical that you seek legal help from a Palm Beach vehicular manslaughter lawyer immediately to give them enough time to investigate the charges.
What Are the Defenses for Vehicular Manslaughter in Palm Beach, FL?
We understand how overwhelming facing vehicular homicide charges is. You should, however, not neglect to hire a vehicular manslaughter attorney just because you think you don’t have a fighting chance. The legal team at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. is highly experienced and will diligently investigate your case details to identify facts that will strengthen your defense.
The prosecutor needs to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and we’re here to ensure that doesn’t happen. Here are some of the defense strategies that can be used in your vehicular manslaughter case.
The state attorneys have to prove that your actions resulted in the other person’s death, and if they can’t, then they don’t have a case. For instance, if the accident occurred because the other party’s vehicle had mechanical issues or fell asleep on the wheel, causing them to swerve into you, then you weren’t at fault.
Proving responsibility is difficult, and having a professional vehicular manslaughter lawyer can increase your chances of winning the case.
Proving Police Procedures
Law enforcement is required to follow the set protocols when dealing with evidence in vehicular manslaughter cases. If they violate your rights during your arrest or deviate from the legal procedures, you have a higher chance of winning the case. Some of the protocols include reading you your Miranda rights during the arrest, allowing you to contact a vehicular homicide attorney, providing proper evidence & documentation, and completing all reports accurately.
For the prosecution to support the vehicular manslaughter conviction caused by speeding, they need to prove that your speed was grossly excessive. This should also be combined with other factors such as erratic driving or poor weather conditions. If all they have against you is simple speeding, then a Palm Beach vehicular manslaughter lawyer can help you win the case.
Proving That You Were Under the Influence
For DUI manslaughter cases, the prosecution should prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the accident. This is not as straightforward as it seems. Sometimes, law enforcement submits their testimony solely based on their observation of your demeanor or behavior at the time of the accident. This is considered as circumstantial evidence, and if they don’t have a breathalyzer report of a blood sample showing your alcohol levels, their case may not hold up. There are also instances where the vehicular manslaughter lawyer may raise questions as to the reliability of the breathalyzer machine.
Why Should You Hire a Vehicular Manslaughter Attorney in Palm Beach, FL?
There’s a lot at stake when you’re charged with vehicular manslaughter charges in Palm Beach, which is why you should seek legal help immediately. Contrary to what you may think, there’s still hope, and a vehicular manslaughter lawyer can help you beat the case.
Some of the reasons why it’s critical that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible include;
- It gives them more time to collect evidence: criminal defense attorneys start building your case as soon as you contact them. They start gathering evidence, including whether the police followed the right protocols during your arrest, collecting witness reports to support your case, etc.
- They have knowledge of the relevant legal procedures: criminal defense attorneys have the relevant experience and knowledge of the defenses that can get your case dismissed or your penalties reduced.
- They take care of all the paperwork: this eliminates the mistakes you would have made, lessening your burden and ensuring your case moves quickly.
- They are committed to defending you: this is irrespective of where you are partially to blame. A criminal defense lawyer has your back and will defend you to the best of their ability.
Most importantly, when you hire a vehicular homicide attorney, you get a support system. You’ll be able to share with them aspects of your case that you don’t want your friends or family to know about. This is why you should look at the reliability and reputation of your potential lawyer before hiring them.
Seek Legal Help from Meltzer & Bell, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys Today!
At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., our vehicular manslaughter lawyers work collaboratively to ensure your rights are upheld. We have extensive knowledge of accident reconstruction and traffic homicide investigations and will stop at nothing to get you justice.
If you’ve been arrested by the following agencies, we can help;
- West Palm Beach Police
- Wellington Police Department
- Florida Highway Patrol
- Boca Raton Police Department
- Palm Beach Police Department
- Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department
- Riviera Beach Police Department
- Palm Springs Police Department
- Delray Police Department
- Tequesta Police Department
- Boynton Beach Police Department
We also represent clients in Miami-Dade County, FL, and Fort Lauderdale in Broward County. If you or your loved one is facing vehicular manslaughter charges, don’t hesitate to contact us today or call us at (561) 557-8686 for a FREE consultation.