A Simple DUI in Utah can Morph Into Homicide Charges

Sometimes DUIs involve accidents with other cars, pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycles.  In worst case scenarios the accident results in death. Our firm has been involved in a number of these types of cases and they are surrounded by pain and sorrow on both sides of the event.  The defendant is generally vilified, but the truth is that the pain associated with causing someone’s death outweighs any penalties and legal consequences that are imposed through the judicial process.

There are generally three types of homicide charges associated with DUIs: manslaughter, negligent homicide, and automobile homicide.

Manslaughter

In Utah, a DUI homicide is manslaughter if the defendant’s actions constitute reckless behavior.  Manslaughter is a felony.  It goes without argument that death caused by the inebriation or intoxication of another constitutes recklessness, but each case must be judged on its own facts.  For example, the level of intoxication as determined by the defendant’s driving pattern and blood or breath alcohol content should influence a jury’s determination of recklessness.  Likewise, a defendant’s history for substance abuse may be persuasive to decide if he was reckless.  Another important factor may be whether the driver was impaired from alcohol, prescribed drugs, or illegal drugs.  It is our job as defense lawyers to present every single mitigating factor to the jury to ensure that the jury returns a just verdict.   Some mitigating factors can actually allow a jury, statutorily, to reduce the level of the homicide charge by an entire degree.

Negligent Homicide

Negligent homicide is only a class A misdemeanor because “negligence” is a standard that is not as offensive as “recklessness.”  Negligence requires that a person owe a duty to another person and as a result of breaching that duty Person A causes damage to Person B.  DUI related deaths are not often charged as negligent homicides because of the fact that it is only a misdemeanor.  However, negligent homicide is a charge that defense counsel can use to their advantage to reduce the charges actually brought, for purposes of plea negotiations.

Automobile Homicide

This is the charge most often brought against drivers who have caused DUI related deaths.  It is a second degree felony.  It is specifically drafted to prosecute DUI related deaths and is aimed at drivers who were impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of causing the accident which resulted in death.

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