Vehicular Manslaughter Charges in Connecticut
When a car accident involves a fatality in Connecticut, a driver may be charged with vehicular manslaughter or negligent homicide with a motor vehicle. These are serious charges – each prosecutable as a felony – and serious penalties including a lengthy prison sentence and a five-figure fine may be imposed upon conviction. As such, the incentive for a criminal defendant facing either charge to mount the strongest possible legal defense could not be greater.
The Presence of Alcohol or Drugs Is Relevant to Charges Related to a Fatal Accident
In Connecticut, vehicular manslaughter is a type of second-degree manslaughter. Under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-56b, a person commits second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle when he or she “1) operates a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor drugs, or both and 2) causes the death of another due to the effect of the liquor or drugs.”
This is a relatively compact statement of legal elements, and thus merits some unpacking. A motor vehicle includes any car, truck, motorcycle, or other motorized vehicle. Liquor includes not just spirits, but any alcoholic beverage, including beer and wine. The catch-all term “drugs” includes both illegal narcotics, marijuana (whether legal or illegal), and prescription medications.
More complex than defining the terms motor vehicle, liquor, and drugs is the issue of causation. Much thought and investigation must be involved in deliberating whether the influence of liquor, drugs, or a combination of the two caused the motor vehicle in question to be operated in such a manner as to have caused the death of another.
Vehicular manslaughter is at its root a form of criminal negligence, within which causation is two-fold. There is actual causation, which asks “would the death have occurred but for the liquor or drug-influenced operation of the motor vehicle?” And there is also proximate causation, which exists only of the occurrence of the death is not too remote, in terms of the chain of cause and effect, from the liquor or drug-impaired driving.
Severe Penalties Necessitate a Vigorous Legal Defense
Conviction on the charge of second-degree manslaughter (a class C felony) is punishable by a prison sentence of between one and ten years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. In addition, there is the mandatory one-year suspension of the person’s driver’s license, followed by the mandatory installation and use of an ignition interlock device for a period of two years. With so much on the line, rely on the counsel of an experienced Fairfield County criminal defense attorney.