Tennessee has somewhat broad vehicular homicide laws. If the state has any reason to believe that a driver had engaged in some kind of reckless behavior that led to a crash, they can bring vehicular homicide charges against that driver. There are specific provisions in the law for those racing on public roads and those driving dangerously in construction zones who kill a worker.
While vehicular homicide can be the result of distracted driving or drag racing, many times these charges result from someone getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink. Driving under the influence (DUI) is against the law in Tennessee.
Anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher at the time of a fatal car accident will face vehicular homicide charges. The same is true for anyone under the influence of a drug that impacts their ability to drive.
Unlike standard homicide, vehicular homicide doesn't require intent
To successfully prosecute a traditional homicide, the state usually has to establish that the individual took intentional actions to cause the death of another person. There must be intent to cause harm. In the case of accidental deaths caused by recklessness, the charge is usually manslaughter, not homicide.
However, as the courts recognize motor vehicles as potentially deadly weapons, drivers should also consider the dangers that driving poses to the public. If someone drives dangerously, they do so knowing that it could result in the death of another person.
Driving irresponsibly is tantamount to having intent to cause harm. That is why it is possible for Tennessee to charge you with homicide even if you never meant to harm anyone.
The penalties for vehicular homicide depend on the circumstances
If this situation is the first time you have faced criminal charges related to impaired driving, then you will likely face a class B felony which can result in between eight and 30 years in prison and as much as $25,000 in fines.
However, the penalties are higher for those who have at least two previous DUI offenses or those with a BAC of .2% or more. Those who fall into these categories will face aggravated vehicular homicide charges, which are generally class A felonies that result in between 15 and 60 years in prison and as much as $50,000 in fines.
You can defend against vehicular homicide charges
While it may seem impossible to defend against allegations related to an impaired driving incident, there may be defense opportunities hidden in the details of your case. Before you give up or plead guilty, you should speak with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney who can educate you about strategies that could help you fight back against vehicular homicide charges.