Vehicular Homicide/Serious Injury by Vehicle -How Committed

Iowa Vehicular Homicide Laws

Vehicular homicide is the most severe alcohol-related and driving offense that a person can be charged with in the State of Iowa. There are a number of theories that a person can be prosecuted for under the vehicular homicide statute. 

Vehicular Homicide While Intoxicated

The alcohol related offense occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated and it unintentionally results in the death of another.  It can be a complete accident but if the driver had an alcohol concentration over .08; had improper drugs in their system; or was under the influence of alcohol or drug or a combination of alcohol and drug; and the action of driving while intoxicated was the proximate cause of the person’s death; the offense has been committed.  The actual legal elements are as follows:

  • Unintentionally causes death of another; by
  • Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

OWI - Drunk Driving

The crime of Operating While Intoxicated can be committed in two ways:

  • by operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drug or combination of alcohol or drug; and/or
  • by operating a motor vehicle while having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more or with “any” amount of controlled substance present in their system.

Class B Felony

A vehicular homicide conviction for operating while intoxicated is a Class B Felony, carrying a mandatory prison term of 25 years.  The judge has no choice but to send the person to prison for 25 years.  There is no possibility of probation. 

Class C Felony

Reckless Driving

A lesser charge of vehicular homicide is also available for situations where the State cannot prove that a person operated while intoxicated.  In these situations they can charge a driver in a fatality accident with vehicular homicide by way of reckless driving.  In these cases the State is required to prove the defendant unintentionally caused the death of another by operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner; in a way that showed demonstrated a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.  In other words, the person knew and recognized the risk of their driving behavior but did it anyway.

Eluding

It is also a Class C Felony, vehicular homicide offense if an individual causes an accident resulting in death during an attempt to elude law enforcement.

Vehicular Homicide by reckless driving or eluding is a Class C Felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  Probation is a possibility in these cases.

Leaving the Scene - Hit and Run

A sentencing enhancement applies to both the Class B and Class C Felony vehicular homicide offenses if the individual is also convicted of leaving the scene of the fatal accident. If a jury determines that the defendant failed to remain on the scene as required by Iowa law, the defendant is required to serve seventy-percent of the prison sentence before being eligible for parole.

Restitution & Loss Of Driving Privileges

In all death related cases, a defendant found guilty of the offense is also required to pay the victim’s estate $150,000.00 in restitution and their driving privileges are barred for 6 years.

Iowa Serious Injury by Vehicle Laws

Serious Injury by Vehicle is the second most severe alcohol-related driving offense that a person can be charged with in the State of Iowa.  The theories and what must be proven are the same as Vehicular Homicide with the only difference being that the accident resulted in a serious injury instead of death.

Iowa law defines "serious injury" as bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes permanent disfigurement or extended loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ.

Class D Felony

A Serious Injury by Vehicle conviction for operating while intoxicated is a Class D Felony, carrying a mandatory prison term of 5 years.  The judge has no choice but to send the person to prison for 5 years.  There is no possibility of probation.

Vehicular Homicide and Serious Injury by Vehicle Defenses

All hope is not lost with a charge for vehicular homicide or serious injury by vehicle, but it is imperative that a person facing these types of serious felony charges immediately consult with their defense lawyers. Time is of the essence in these cases, and evidence is often destroyed before trial. Defenses are discussed at Vehicular Homicide Defenses.

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