Vehicular Homicide in Pinellas County

The crime of vehicular homicide is found in Section 782.071, F.S., which prohibits reckless driving, causing the death of another person. The crime of vehicular homicide is charged as a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison.

Vehicular homicide can be charged as a first degree felony when the driver:

  • fails to render aid or provide information:
  • when the defendant knew or should have known that the accident occurred;
  • regardless of whether the person knew the accident resulted in injury or death.

Vehicular homicide is charged as a first degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years in Florida State Prison. The vehicular homicide statute also conveys a right of action for civil damages under the Wrongful Death Act, s. 768.19, F.S.

In Pinellas County, FL, the law enforcement agencies that investigate traffic homicide and vehicular homicide cases include:

  • Florida Highway Patrol;
  • Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Clearwater Police Department;
  • St. Petersburg Police Department;
  • Pinellas Park Police Department;
  • Largo Police Department;
  • Tarpon Springs Police Department;
  • Gulfport Police Department;
  • Kenneth City Police Department; and
  • Treasure Island Police Department.

Attorney for Vehicular Homicide in Pinellas County, FL

If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in the death of another person, seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm understand how local law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County, FL, investigate traffic homicide cases.

No charges should be filed if you are found not to be at fault for the accident. On the other hand, you might be issued a traffic citation if you committed a moving violation that caused or contributed to the death. If you are accused of reckless driving, you might be charged with vehicular homicide. If you were DUI, you might be charged with DUI manslaughter.

A criminal defense attorney can present mitigation and favorable evidence to the State Attorney’s Office while these decisions are being made.

Call 727-210-7004.

Vehicular Homicide is a Form of Manslaughter

In McCreary v. State, 371 So. 2d 1024, 1026 (Fla. 1979), the Florida Supreme Court found the reckless element required to prove vehicular homicide is a lesser standard than the culpable negligence standard required for proof under the manslaughter statute found in Section 782.07, F.S.

The crime of manslaughter under Section 782.07, F.S., can also serve as a basis for a charge against a driver and is charged as a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison.

Under the manslaughter statute, culpable negligence requires proof of a “gross and flagrant character, evincing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or there is that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences.” Id.

The Florida Supreme Court defined recklessness under the vehicular homicide statute as “where the degree of negligence falls short of culpable negligence but where the degree of negligence is more than a mere failure to use ordinary care.” Id.

In McCreary, the Florida Supreme Court held that the state established the reckless element in vehicular homicide where:

  • the defendant ran a stop sign causing the death of one of his passengers;
  • the evidence showed that the stop sign was clearly visible from a distance of 300 to 400 feet;
  • the defendant had consumed several glasses of beer just prior to the accident, but was not intoxicated; and
  • the defendant drove into the intersection without slowing down.

Id. at 1025.

The court in State v. Esposito, 642 So. 2d 25 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994) reasoned that momentary inattentiveness alone is insufficient to support a reckless driving or vehicular homicide conviction.

In Esposito, the defendant was a bus driver to struck and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The evidence showed he had an unobstructed view and was traveling at only 15 mph. An expert concluded that the defendant failed to look for pedestrians and was not paying attention. Because the state was only able to show a failure to use ordinary care, the evidence was insufficient to prove vehicular homicide. Id.

The Difference Between Vehicular Homicide and DUI Manslaughter

Vehicular homicide is different than DUI manslaughter, although traditionally, double jeopardy prevented a conviction for both under the “single homicide rule,” and because each was considered to be a degree variant of the other.

Under Section 316.193(3)(c)3, F.S., DUI manslaughter occurs when the defendant was DUI, either because the driver’s normal faculties were impaired or because the BAC level was over .08, which caused or contributed to the death of any human being.  The crime of DUI manslaughter is punished as a second-degree felony with a four year minimum mandatory provision.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.