Yes, it is possible. Minnesota has a criminal vehicular homicide statute that criminalizes the accidental killing of someone in a grossly negligent manner or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This statute does not cover every accidental killing but will certainly apply to someone who was drunk or high or who was severely negligent.
Penalties are very severe, as you would expect when someone dies. At our firm, we defend these cases aggressively, but it is important that you understand the details of the law.
In this article, our Minnesota criminal defense lawyer answers the question, Can you go to jail for accidentally killing someone with your car? If you have questions, contact the team at Arechigo & Stokka today.
Minnesota’s Vehicular Homicide Law
You can find the statute at Section 609.2112. It defines criminal vehicular homicide as killing someone while operating a motor vehicle when one of the following aggravating factors applies:
- You operated the vehicle with gross negligence
- You operated the vehicle negligently while under the influence of drugs or a controlled substance
- You had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher
- You left the scene of an accident that you caused
- Your accident was caused by a defect in the vehicle and a peace officer had previously issued a citation or warning for defective maintenance
These are basically the 5 bases that warrant a criminal vehicular homicide charge. Let’s look at some of them more closely.
Gross negligence is more serious than simple carelessness. For example, anyone could forget to check their rearview mirrors before backing up in a parking lot, which causes them to accidentally run someone over.
This type of mistake, though, probably doesn’t qualify as gross negligence. Instead, gross negligence requires more blameworthy conduct.
Generally, any action that a driver should know would cause a high risk of injury would qualify, such as running someone off the road by following too closely or dangerously trying to pass someone who is in a crosswalk.
Impairment by Drugs or Alcohol
There are several ways to qualify as sufficiently impaired. First, if you blow too high a number on a breathalyzer, then you are impaired for purposes of this statute.
However, you can also qualify as impaired even if your BAC is under 0.08. The law covers situations where motorists operate a vehicle “negligently” while having some drugs or alcohol in their system.
So, if you accidentally back up over someone after ingesting cocaine or heroin or drinking a beer, you could be charged with vehicular homicide.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If you caused an accident, you need to stop and render reasonable assistance. If you fail to, and the victim dies, you can be charged with criminal vehicular homicide.
Can You Go to Jail for Accidentally Killing Someone in a Car Accident?
Yes. In fact, you face a presumption of going to prison for 48 months if you are convicted of criminal vehicular homicide. If you are convicted of criminal vehicular homicide, you can face the following additional penalties:
- Up to 10 years in prison
- A fine up to $20,000
If you have a recent qualifying driving offense, the maximum imprisonment could be 15 years.
Of course, not everyone convicted ends up in jail. A lot will depend on your criminal history. An aggressive criminal defense attorney can present your case to a judge in a way that helps get the most lenient sentence possible.
Contact a Minnesota Vehicular Homicide Lawyer
Arechigo & Stokka is a leading Minnesota criminal defense law firm that has tackled vehicular homicide cases.
An experienced Minnesota vehicular homicide lawyer will fight to get the most favorable resolution to your case, whether that is a dismissal, plea deal, or acquittal at trial.
Contact us today to find out more. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.