Vehicular Assault / Homicide

VEHICULAR HOMICIDE

Under Washington law, vehicular homicide is defined as causing the death of another person while 1) driving a car under the influence of alcohol or any drug, or 2) driving a car in a reckless manner, or 3) driving a car with disregard for the safety of others. The charge can be made whether the driver causes the death of a passenger in his vehicle, another vehicle, or a pedestrian. As with a charge of DUI, the definition of “under the influence” is having a blood alcohol level of .08 or over, or by having one’s driving be “affected by” the alcohol or drug. The penalties for this offense depend on how the crime is committed. Punishments vary depending on whether the death is caused by driving while intoxicated, or by reckless driving, or by disregard for the safety of another.



Under Washington law, committing this offense by driving while intoxicated has a seriousness level of a 9, thereby bringing a standard range sentence of 31-41 months for a person with no criminal history. If the offense is committed by reckless driving, the offense has a seriousness level of an 8, bringing a standard penalty of 21 to 27 months. If the death is caused by disregard for the safety of others, the seriousness level is a 7, thus bringing a standard penalty of 15 to 20 months.



Under legal precedents established by our courts, a person convicted of all three means of committing the offense is punished by the highest level. A criminal lawyer is needed to calculate the precise penalty, but the punishments can increase substantially if a person has prior felonies, DUI’s, reckless driving, or convictions for operating a vessel while under the influence. This offense of vehicular homicide is considered a “strike” for purposes of the three strikes rule if the offense was committed by driving under the influence or by reckless driving. However, if the offense was committed by disregard for the safety of others it is not considered a strike.

VEHICULAR ASSAULT

Under Washington law, vehicular assault is defined as causing substantial bodily harm to another person while 1) driving a car under the influence of alcohol or any drug, or 2) driving a car in a reckless manner; or 3) driving a car with disregard for the safety of others. “Substantial bodily harm” is defined as bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, causes a temporary but substantial loss of the function of any bodily part or organ, or which causes the fracture of a body part.

The penalties for this offense depend on the manner in which the offense is committed. Under Washington law, committing vehicular assault by driving while intoxicated or by reckless driving brings a seriousness level of a 4. If the offense is committed by disregard for the safety of others, the offense has a seriousness level of a 3. For a person with no criminal history, an offense with a seriousness level of 4 brings a standard penalty of 3 – 9 months in the county jail, and a level 3 brings a standard penalty of 1 to 3 months. The punishments can increase substantially if a person has prior felony convictions, or prior DUI or reckless driving convictions.

HOMICIDE BY WATERCRAFT

In Washington, homicide by watercraft (or watercraft homicide) is defined as causing the death of another person while operating a boat or vessel 1) while under the influence of alcohol or any drug, 2) while driving the boat in a reckless manner; or 3) while driving a boat with disregard for the safety of others. The charge can be made whether the operator kills another occupant of the boat, or a different boat, swimmer, diver, water skier or any other person. Homicide by watercraft is a class A felony. The penalties for this offense largely mirror those of vehicular homicide discussed above. That is to say committing the offense by driving under the influence is a seriousness level 9, and brings a punishment of 31 to 41 months. Committing this offense by reckless driving is a seriousness level of 8 and brings a punishment of 21 to 27 months. Committing the offense by disregard for the safety of others has a seriousness level of 7 and brings a punishment of 15 to 20 months.

ASSAULT BY WATERCRAFT

Under Washington law, assault by watercraft is defined as causing substantial bodily injury to a person while operating a boat or vessel: 1) while under the influence of alcohol or any drug, or 2) while driving the boat in a reckless manner. “Serious bodily injury” means injury which involves a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, or a protracted loss or impairment of the function of a part or organ of the body. Note that this offense requires a higher level of injury than vehicular assault. The statute provides that if the injury is caused by a water skier being towed by a boat, the driver of the boat is not guilty of assault by watercraft. Assault by watercraft is a class B felony. The offense of assault by watercraft has a seriousness level of 4, and brings a standard range sentence of 3 to 9 months in the county jail.

CAUSATION IN MOTOR VEHICLE CASES

In many court cases having to do with vehicular crashes, the subject of causation will arise. In some instances both drivers are at fault, and it is up to the jury to make sense of what occurred. Even if a defendant is legally drunk at the time of the crash, it is possible for the other vehicle to have been the “sole cause” of the crash. The notion of the “sole cause” is a defense under Washington law. However, it is not a defense that the other driver was merely “contributorily negligent.” Criminal defense lawyers often find it helpful to seek the assistance of an accident reconstructionist. Such experts often find critical issues that the police detectives have missed.

FREE CONSULTATION

The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer will fight to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome in your court case. Call attorney Erin Bradley McAleer today at (360) 334-6277 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Washington Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer represents clients throughout Southwest Washington State, including in Clark County, Cowlitz County, and Skamania County and Vancouver, Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Washougal, Woodland, Yacolt, Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, North Bonneville, and Stevenson. Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer focuses on the areas of Criminal Defense, Traffic Infractions, Landlord Tenant, Personal Injury, Firearm Rights Restoration, and Post-Conviction Relief (Vacating & Sealing Criminal Records).

 

 

 

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