In general, vehicular manslaughter involves death that results from the negligent operation of a vehicle, or more so a result from driving whilst committing an unlawful act that does not amount to a felony. It is the crime of causing death of a human being due to illegal driving of an automobile, including gross negligence, drunk driving, reckless driving or speeding. Vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a misdemeanor (minor crime with a maximum punishment of a year in county jail or only a fine) or a felony (punishable by a term in state prison) depending on the circumstances. Gross negligence or driving a few miles over the speed limit might be charged as a misdemeanor, but drunk driving resulting in a fatality is most likely treated as a felony. Death of a passenger, including a loved one or friend, can be vehicular manslaughter if due to illegal driving. Vehicular manslaughter can also be called as vehicular homicide.
All states except Alaska, Montana, and Arizona have vehicular homicide statutes. The laws have the effect of making a vehicle a potentially deadly weapon, to allow for easier conviction and more severe penalties. In states without such statutes, defendants can still be charged with manslaughter or murder in some situations.