If an individual consumes alcohol or drugs, and then operates a motor vehicle, he or she can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). In situations when that same individual is involved in a car crash that results in the death of another, the impaired driver may be charged with DUI manslaughter. If convicted of this crime, extensive prison time can be sentenced by a criminal court judge. In addition, the driver may be required to attend a rehabilitative program, and possibly pay restitution or compensation, to the family of the deceased.
The difference between DUI manslaughter and DUI murder is the intent of the driver while committing the criminal act. If he or she has not previously been charged with a DUI or other felony, and the crime is an isolated event, DUI manslaughter is the most likely charge when a fatality occurs. In cases when the driver is a repeat offender, however, a DUI murder conviction is possible. In other words, it is often deemed manslaughter when the driver’s intent was careless or reckless, and when the person does not normally behave that way. Alternatively, murder is considered the malicious act of someone with a depraved mind who intended to cause harm, or repeatedly committed the same crime despite judicial punishment.
Car accidents can happen even when drivers are alert and careful, but they are most likely to occur when an impaired individual decides to drive. Controlled substances usually affect a person's physical reaction time and judgment. If someone operates a motor vehicle while he or she is under the influence, muscle reflexes and coordination is generally compromised.
Mentally, an intoxicated driver loses the ability to react quickly and maintain alertness. Vision can be negatively affected as well. These impairments, among many others, may lead to car accidents that cause serious injury or death. When this occurs, serious criminal charges generally result.
DUI manslaughter is a felony offense that can be punishable by up to 15 years in prison in some places. Sometimes a judge will order an offender to attend drug and alcohol awareness classes, or an in-patient rehabilitative program, following the completion of a prison sentence, if one is imposed. Probation, along with ongoing drug and alcohol testing, may also be ordered to monitor the individual. This is usually done to discourage continued use of controlled substances in hopes of avoiding a recurrence of DUI.
Sometimes, a car accident results in injury to another, but not necessarily a fatality. There are times, however, that valiant efforts of a trauma team or hospital staff are fruitless and death of the victim ultimately occurs. It may happen several hours, days, or even weeks after the accident. Regardless of when it occurs, if the cause of eventual death is one that is precipitated by a person who drove a vehicle while under the effects of drugs or alcohol, a DUI manslaughter charge frequently ensues.