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The penalties for vehicular manslaughter in Washington

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2020 | Criminal Defense

According to FindLaw, when a person kills someone, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the state of Washington declares it a homicide. Depending on the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the killing, the state may further classify a killing as murder or manslaughter. Manslaughter charges arise when the state believes the defendant had no intention of killing the victim, but when evidence suggests his or her actions were negligent or reckless enough that, had he or she acted appropriately, he or she could have prevented the incident. 

Washington law defines vehicular homicide as the death of one person by a type of vehicle, such as a car, truck, motorcycle, SUV, bus or taxi. Per state law, the death need not be immediate; rather, it must occur within three years of the date of the incident and as the result of injuries sustained in the accident. 

For the state to convict a driver of vehicular homicide, it must prove that the driver engaged in a negligent or reckless activity. Activities of negligent or reckless behavior include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reckless driving or driving without care for the safety of others. 

Washington classifies vehicular homicide as a class A felony. However, if a person has one or more previous DUI convictions or offenses on his or her record, the state will add an additional two years to the defendant’s sentence per offense, if convicted. 

According to Washington Legislature RCW 46.61.521, a class A felony is the second most severe type of crime a person can commit, beneath only a felony. A class A felony carries a term of life imprisonment, a $50,000 fine or both.