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Vehicular Homicide

Every month, there are approximately 65 traffic fatalities in Palm Beach County. These cases result in investigations by the traffic homicide units of local law enforcement agencies and the State Attorney’s Office in West Palm Beach, FL. In some of these cases, the driver is charged with vehicular homicide.

Under Florida Statute Section 782.071, the term “vehicular homicide” is the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another. 

The term “reckless driving” under Florida Statute Section 316.192 means driving a “vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Most reckless driving charges involve allegations of speeding, racing on the roadway, or driving under the influence.

When the driving is reckless in vehicular homicide cases, the prosecutor does not need to show the driver’s intent to kill. In other words, a prosecution for vehicular homicide does not require the driver’s intent to kill that is usually required in a murder case.

In Palm Beach County, these cases are investigated by the Traffic Homicide Unit of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. The traffic homicide unit in Palm Beach County was created in 1993. The unit reviews every traffic fatality case in the county including those involving an arrest for:

  • Leaving the scene involving death;
  • Vehicular homicide; and
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI) manslaughter.

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Attorney for Vehicular Homicide in Palm Beach County, FL

The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. in West Palm Beach, FL, can help you understand the elements of vehicular homicide that must be proven at trial in Florida. Learn more about the statistics that show how these types of charges are typically resolved in courtrooms throughout Palm Beach County and the surrounding areas in South Florida.

The attorney that you hire for a vehicular homicide case should be familiar with accident reconstruction and investigations into traffic homicide cases. Our vehicular homicide defense attorneys also represent clients in the surrounding areas in South Florida including in Fort Lauderdale in Broward County and in Miami in Miami-Dade County, FL. Call (561) 557-8686 today.


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Penalties for Vehicular Homicide

Vehicular homicide is typically charged as a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000. The crime can be charged as a felony of the first degree, if:

  1. At the time of the accident, the person knew, or should have known, that the accident occurred (although not necessarily that the person knew that the accident resulted in injury or death); and
  2. The person failed to give information and render aid as required by s. 316.062.

First-degree felony vehicular homicide is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

In addition to any other punishment, the court may order the person to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, under the supervision of a registered nurse, an emergency room physician, or an emergency medical technician pursuant to a voluntary community service program operated by the trauma center or hospital.

For purposes of Florida’s vehicular homicide statute, the term “unborn child” has the same meaning as provided in s. 775.021(5). The term “unborn child” means a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, which is carried in the womb.


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Right of Action for Civil Damages for Vehicular Homicide

A right of action for civil damages exists under s. 768.19, under all circumstances, for all deaths described in the vehicular homicide statute.

Under Florida Statute Section 768.19, when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or negligence and the event would have entitled the person injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued, the person that would have been liable in damages if death had not ensued shall be liable for damages as specified in this act notwithstanding the death of the person injured, although death was caused under circumstances constituting a felony.

We represent clients arrested for vehicular homicide in Palm Beach County after an arrest by one of the following agencies: 

  • Florida Highway Patrol
  • Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department
  • Palm Beach Police Department
  • West Palm Beach Police
  • Boca Raton Police Department
  • Delray Police Department
  • Boynton Beach Police Department
  • Riviera Beach Police Department
  • Tequesta Police Department
  • Palm Springs Police Department
  • Wellington Police Department

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Additional Resources

Vehicular Homicide Cases in Florida – Read the statute for homicide crimes in Florida including Florida Statute Section 782.071 for vehicular homicide cases in Florida which defines the offense, explain the penalties, and provides for certain defenses to the charges.


This article was last updated on Friday, March 23, 2018.

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