Vehicular homicide related to DUI

Denver Vehicular Homicide DUI Defense Attorney

Vehicular homicide, or vehicular manslaughter, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (whether prescribed, over-the-counter or illegal)  is the most serious traffic charge a person can face under Colorado law.

Drivers facing such a charge should make no statements, offer to take no tests, and volunteer no information. Your first and only call should be to a veteran criminal defense lawyer in Denver who is experienced in handling both DUI and vehicular homicide charges.

18-3-106 CRS defines vehicular homicide as driving a motor vehicle in a reckless manner or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, while causing a collision that kills another person. However, the penalties are significantly enhanced when alcohol or drugs are involved.

Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Colorado

Killing someone by driving recklessly is a Class 4 felony under Colorado law. Penalties include:

  • 2-6 years in a Colorado prison, and/or
  • a fine of up to $500,000.

Killing someone while driving under the influence, is a Class 3 felony under Colorado law. Penalties include:

  • 4-12 years in a Colorado prison, and/or
  • a fine of up to $750,000.

As significant as doubled minimum and maximum periods of incarceration, is the fact that the state does not have to prove you drove recklessly - proving you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs is sufficient enough evidence to prove you guilty of vehicular homicide so long as your driving was the proximate cause of the death of another person.

In other words, to prove you guilty of vehicular homicide in Colorado, the state must prove:

  • You drove recklessly or you drove while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and
  • Your driving was the proximate cause of the victim’s death.

Vehicular Homicide Defense in Denver

Defense of vehicular homicide charges involving alcohol or drugs under Colorado law will involve both fighting the underlying DUI charge and working to prove the collision was not the proximate cause of death.

Challenging proximate cause of death typically involves arguing death was caused by an intervening event. While there is much case law that provides the groundwork for what is or is not an intervening event, distancing the collision from the cause of death could involve:

  • Proving another event was responsible for cause of death and was completely independent of the accident. (examples may include a blood infection acquired during treatment, or an ambulance that is involved in a collision enroute to the hospital).
  • The intervening event was unforeseeable. (for example, roadway departure or even a heart attack might be foreseeable causes of a traffic crash that would not alleviate defendant responsibility in some cases).
  • Defendant had no responsibility for the intervening event.
  • The person would have survived if not for the intervening (secondary) event.

Challenging the underlying DUI charge is much more straightforward but its importance is just as vital to proper defense of a vehicular homicide charge in Colorado involving alcohol or drugs.

Failure to comply with a request for blood, urine or other testing may be used against you but is typically a better option than providing the state with a failed test to use against you in court. In cases of vehicular homicide, a driver who refuses to take such a test can have bodily fluids taken for testing against his or her will, provided proper procedures are followed, which will certainly be one element challenged in court by your defense attorney.

Other evidence the state will use may include:

  • Any statements made by you.
  • Any evidence of erratic driving or other driving behavior.
  • Witness accounts, both at the accident scene and in the hours leading up to a crash (such as patrons or employees of a bar or restaurant).
  • Whether evidence of alcohol or drug use was found in your car or on your person.

Areas where your Denver criminal defense attorney will work to defend against a charge of vehicular homicide involving alcohol or drug use may include:

  • Testing errors: Blood, breath, and urine testing are far from the exact sciences prosecutors would like to portray. Numerous problems with calibration, contamination, collection, or other errors can significantly impact results.
  • Procedural errors: From Miranda rights, to probable cause for a traffic stop, to legally and properly collecting testing specimens against a defendant’s will, an experienced defense attorney can succeed in excluding critical evidence in cases where a defendant’s rights were violated.
  • That you were not unsafely intoxicated: Despite the legal limits for DUI, there are no legal limits specifically for vehicular homicide. Prosecutors must still prove you were too intoxicated by alcohol or drugs to operate the vehicle in an acceptable manner.
  • Proving you weren’t the driver: These are typically very serious crashes and determining who was driving can be difficult in a substantial number of cases. There have been many instances of wrongfully accused passengers or vehicle owners being prosecuted.

James Colgan is a veteran drunk driving defense attorney who represents clients throughout the Denver metro area, including Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Lakewood, Thornton, Westminster, Berkley, Brighton, Broomfield, Castle Pines, Castle Rock, Columbine, Commerce City, Englewood, Federal Heights, Golden, Greenwood Village, Ken Caryl, Littleton, Lone Tree, Northglenn, Parker, Sherrelwood, The Pinery, Welby and Wheat Ridge.

Call the Law Office of James Colgan at 720-909-6425 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. We welcome your calls, letters and email; however contacting us does NOT create an attorney-client relationship.

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Northglenn, Co 80233

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