Vehicular Homicide Lawyer West Palm Beach

Facing vehicular homicide charges in West Palm Beach is a devastating and life-altering experience. The consequences are severe, and the legal process highly complex. Meltzer & Bell, P.A., offers decades of experience defending against serious felony charges in Florida. We understand the stakes and fight tirelessly to protect your rights and your future.

Overview of Florida Vehicular Homicide (782.071)

Vehicular Homicide involves the unlawful and reckless operation of a vehicle that results in the death of another person. It’s a serious felony charge in Florida. Scenarios that could lead to these charges include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI Manslaughter)
  • Reckless driving behaviors like excessive speeding or street racing
  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy or fatigued driving

Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Florida

Consequences for a conviction are severe and depend on the specific circumstances of the case:

  • Second-Degree Felony: Typical charge, carrying a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years, hefty fines, and driver’s license revocation.
  • First-Degree Felony: If the driver leaves the scene of the accident or fails to render aid, the charge can be elevated, carrying a potential sentence of up to 30 years.

Potential Defense Strategies

Every vehicular homicide case is unique. Meltzer & Bell meticulously analyzes the evidence and the circumstances surrounding the incident to build the strongest possible defense. Strategies might include:

  • Challenging Causation: Did the driver’s actions directly cause the death, or were other factors involved (road conditions, actions of the victim, etc.)?
  • Contesting DUI Allegations: Scrutinizing breathalyzer results, field sobriety tests, and police procedures in DUI-related cases.
  • Lack of Intent: While recklessness is involved, this charge differs from murder due to the lack of intent to kill.
  • Accident Reconstruction: Consulting experts to analyze the accident scene and potentially support alternative explanations.

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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Why Choose an Experienced Palm Beach County Vehicular Homicide Attorney

Vehicular homicide cases are among the most complex criminal charges in Florida. They demand a deep understanding of criminal law, traffic laws, DUI statutes, and often, the science of accident reconstruction.

The Role of Accident Reconstruction Experts

Determining how and why an accident occurred is crucial for building a strong defense. Experienced attorneys often work with accident reconstruction experts who can:

  • Analyze skid marks, vehicle damage, and physical evidence from the scene.
  • Create simulations or models to determine speed, point of impact, and potential contributing factors.
  • Provide expert testimony in court to challenge the prosecution’s version of events.

Meltzer & Bell: Experience You Can Count On

The team at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. has a proven track record of defending clients in Palm Beach County against serious felony charges, including vehicular homicide. We understand the intricacies of these cases and have established relationships with qualified accident reconstruction experts when necessary.

Our experience includes:

  • Decades of combined courtroom experience, including numerous jury trials.
  • Former prosecutors with in-depth knowledge of how these cases are built.
  • Meticulous approach to analyzing evidence and building strategic defenses.

Your Future Demands Skilled Representation

If you’re facing vehicular homicide charges in Palm Beach County, don’t leave your defense to chance. Contact Meltzer & Bell today for a confidential consultation. We’ll assess your case and start fighting to protect your rights and your future.


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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

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 18, 2024.

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