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Vehicular Homicide Defense Lawyers in Maine

Vehicular Homicide Defense Attorney Will Bly in Maine

If a person causes another person’s death while driving a motor vehicle in Maine, a felony charge of manslaughter or murder may be laid against the driver.

Not all deaths caused by car accidents are criminal offenses — some accidents are unavoidable. Similarly, not all car accidents where someone is killed will result in a manslaughter or murder charge.

However, if the driver was found to be negligent or reckless, the death may be classified as vehicular homicide. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense (and the mental state of the driver), the offense may be prosecuted as a felony (a Class A, B or C crime) in Maine.

A conviction for such an offense is likely to lead to significant time in prison. However, there are often mitigating factors and various defenses available for experienced criminal defense lawyers to limit the consequences.

If you’ve been charged with vehicular homicide in Maine, it is essential to get the best legal assistance possible to prevent it from negatively impacting your future. Call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

Driving-related homicide charges in Maine

Whether it’s termed “vehicular manslaughter”, “vehicular homicide” or something else, people are killed on the roads in Maine and prosecutors need a way to charge drivers whose actions cause the death of another person.

Many states have a “vehicular homicide” statute that applies exclusively to unlawful driving-related killings.

Maine does not have a specific statute for this. Instead, a driver found to be negligent or reckless can be charged with manslaughter.

To charge a motorist after the death of another person on the roads, prosecutors in Maine must use the existing homicide laws for manslaughter and murder that apply to all types of unlawful killings.

Crimes are composed of two parts: an act and a mental state. With manslaughter and murder charges, the mental state of the driver at the time of the accident must be established….

The role of the driver’s mental state in vehicular manslaughter

The culpability level of the driver’s mental state is an important factor in deciding whether a driver who kills somebody on the road can be convicted of murder or manslaughter.

The three main mental states to consider in this respect are:

  1. Criminal Negligence: this is the failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would take under similar circumstances (e.g., speeding, distracted driving or driving too closely).
  2. Recklessness: this is a more culpable mental state than negligence. It involves knowingly doing or failing to do something that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others, such as street racing in a residential zone.
  3. Gross or extreme indifference to human life: this is where the driver is aware that his/her actions pose a substantial danger to the lives of others but goes ahead regardless, i.e., recklessness of a more serious degree. The dividing line is not always clear and is frequently argued in court.

Manslaughter charge

A motorist in Maine can be charged with manslaughter for causing the death of another person while driving in a “criminally negligent” or “reckless” manner.

A key element of a manslaughter charge is acting unknowingly or failing to do something that subsequently creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others. The risk caused must constitute a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would apply in similar circumstances. Criminal negligence is usually a misdemeanor in Maine but manslaughter is charged as a felony.

Driving in a “reckless” manner is similar to driving in a criminally negligent manner but the difference is that the person is aware of the risk but disregards it. These actions are more likely to be charged as manslaughter (felony offense) if they result in the death of another road user.

What is the difference between vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide?

Some states use the terms vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide. They have similar meanings but sometimes come with different nuances and occasionally are used as two separate criminal offenses, with separate penalties.

Maine uses neither term and, instead, may charge a motorist with manslaughter or murder if a person was killed due to negligent or reckless actions on the road.

Aggravating circumstances

Sometimes, when a person is killed in a road accident in Maine, nobody is to blame. However, negligent, reckless or egregious actions are often the cause.

Even if manslaughter or murder charges are not laid but the driver was found to be operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the death of another road user may be classified as an aggravating circumstance, which can lead to harsher penalties.

If a driver is charged with manslaughter and other aggravating circumstances are present, harsher penalties may result too. Such aggravating factors may include:

  • The driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • There is more than one victim
  • The driver was driving on a suspended license
  • The offense occurred in a school zone
  • The driver was criminally speeding

Vehicular homicide penalties in Maine

The penalties associated with vehicular homicide in Maine vary greatly because the offenses of manslaughter and murder have many “degrees”.

  • Manslaughter: criminally negligent homicide is a class A crime (felony) with a possible prison term of up to 30 years, a $50,000 fine (maximum) and license revocation of no less than ten years.

Even if a motorist is not charged with murder or manslaughter for killing someone while operating a vehicle under the influence (OUI), it is classed as a very serious (Class B) crime in Maine. The driver may face six months to ten years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines, with the possibility of a lengthy license revocation.

Sentencing laws in Maine are complex. Your chances of avoiding (or minimizing) prison time are increased with strong and experienced legal representation.

Fight a vehicular homicide charge in Maine

If you’re faced with a vehicular homicide or manslaughter charge from actions while driving in Maine, your life could change rapidly for the worse — due to one simple mistake or error of judgment.

These cases can be particularly tough on defendants who have had no prior legal issues.

Representation from an experienced vehicular homicide defense attorney will provide valuable support during troubled times and can also make the difference between extensive jail time and walking away with no conviction or a reduced penalty.

For experienced help in defending a vehicular homicide charge, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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