Vehicular Homicide Law & Legal Definition


Homicide is the willful (non-negligent) killing of one human being by another. The only difference between a vehicular homicide and other homicides is the use of a motor vehicle as a weapon, as opposed to a gun or knife. Impairment due to alcohol or other drugs may be used as a partial defense. This occurs if the defendant is charged with murder or voluntary manslaughter and the defendant’s impairment level is so high that it affects the defendant’s intent to kill. When this happens, murder and voluntary manslaughter may be mitigated to a lesser crime, like involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. Vehicular homicide is governed by state laws, which vary by state, so local laws should be consulted for specific requirements and punishments.

The following is an example of a state law governing vehicular homicide:

Criminal vehicular homicide and injury.

Subdivision 1. Criminal vehicular homicide. A person is guilty of criminal vehicular homicide resulting in death and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both, if the person causes the death of a human being not constituting murder or manslaughter as a result of operating a motor vehicle:

(1) in a grossly negligent manner;

(2) in a negligent manner while under the influence of:
(i) alcohol;
(ii) a controlled substance; or
(iii) any combination of those elements;

(3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;

(4) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, as measured within two hours of the time of driving;

(5) in a negligent manner while knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance;

(6) in a negligent manner while any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, is present in the person's body; or

(7) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident in violation of section 169.09, subdivision 1 or 6.

Subd. 2. Resulting in great bodily harm. A person is guilty of criminal vehicular operation resulting in great bodily harm and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both, if the person causes great bodily harm to another, not constituting attempted murder or assault, as a result of operating a motor vehicle:

(1) in a grossly negligent manner;

(2) in a negligent manner while under the influence of:
(i) alcohol;
(ii) a controlled substance; or
(iii) any combination of those elements;

(3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;

(4) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, as measured within two hours of the time of driving;

(5) in a negligent manner while knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance;

(6) in a negligent manner while any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, is present in the person's body; or

(7) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident in violation of section 169.09, subdivision 1 or 6.

Subd. 2a. Resulting in substantial bodily harm. A person is guilty of criminal vehicular operation resulting in substantial bodily harm and may be sentenced to imprisonment of not more than three years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both, if the person causes substantial bodily harm to another, as a result of operating a motor vehicle;

(1) in a grossly negligent manner;

(2) in a negligent manner while under the influence of:
(i) alcohol;
(ii) a controlled substance; or
(iii) any combination of those elements;

(3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;

(4) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, as measured within two hours of the time of driving;

(5) in a negligent manner while knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance;

(6) in a negligent manner while any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, is present in the person's body; or

(7) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident in violation of section 169.09, subdivision 1 or 6.

Subd. 2b. Resulting in bodily harm. A person is guilty of criminal vehicular operation resulting in bodily harm and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both, if the person causes bodily harm to another, as a result of operating a motor vehicle:

(1) in a grossly negligent manner;

(2) in a negligent manner while under the influence of:
(i) alcohol;
(ii) a controlled substance; or
(iii) any combination of those elements;

(3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;

(4) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, as measured within two hours of the time of driving;

(5) in a negligent manner while knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance;

(6) in a negligent manner while any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, is present in the person's body; or

(7) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident in violation of section 169.09, subdivision 1 or 6.

Subd. 3. Resulting in death to an unborn child. A person is guilty of criminal vehicular operation resulting in death to an unborn child and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both, if the person causes the death of an unborn child as a result of operating a motor vehicle:

(1) in a grossly negligent manner;

(2) in a negligent manner while under the influence of:
(i) alcohol;
(ii) a controlled substance; or
(iii) any combination of those elements;

(3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;

(4) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, as measured within two hours of the time of driving;

(5) in a negligent manner while knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance;

(6) in a negligent manner while any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, is present in the person's body; or

(7) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident in violation of section 169.09, subdivision 1 or 6.

A prosecution for or conviction of a crime under this subdivision is not a bar to conviction of or punishment for any other crime committed by the defendant as part of the same conduct.

Subd. 4. Resulting in injury to unborn child. A person is guilty of criminal vehicular operation resulting in injury to an unborn child and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both, if the person causes great bodily harm to an unborn child who is subsequently born alive, as a result of operating a motor vehicle:

(1) in a grossly negligent manner;

(2) in a negligent manner while under the influence of:
(i) alcohol;
(ii) a controlled substance; or
(iii) any combination of those elements;

(3) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;

(4) while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, as measured within two hours of the time of driving;

(5) in a negligent manner while knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance;

(6) in a negligent manner while any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols, is present in the person's body; or

(7) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident in violation of section 169.09, subdivision 1 or 6.

A prosecution for or conviction of a crime under this subdivision is not a bar to conviction of or punishment for any other crime committed by the defendant as part of the same conduct.

Subd. 4a. Affirmative defense. It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge under subdivision 1, clause (6); 2, clause (6); 2a, clause (6); 2b, clause (6); 3, clause (6); or 4, clause (6), that the defendant used the controlled substance according to the terms of a prescription issued for the defendant in accordance with sections 152.11 and 152.12.

Subd. 5. Definitions. For purposes of this section, the terms defined in this subdivision have the meanings given them.

(a) "Motor vehicle" has the meaning given in section 609.52, subdivision 1.

(b) "Controlled substance" has the meaning given in section 152.01, subdivision 4.

(c) "Hazardous substance" means any chemical or chemical compound that is listed as a hazardous substance in rules adopted under chapter 182.