New York Penal Law § 125.13: Vehicular manslaughter in the first degree

In the State of New York, a person is likely to be charged with vehicular manslaughter if he or she is behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while impaired or intoxicated and causes the death of another person. In order to discuss vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, we need to look at the crime in the second degree.

Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree
Vehicular manslaughter in the first degree is found at New York Penal Law 125.13. This crime will be charged in the second degree if a driver causes the death of another person while participating in one of the following:

  • He or she operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated, under the influence of drugs or both.
  • That driver operated a motor vehicle with a gross weight of more than 18,000 pounds while transporting flammable, radioactive or explosive materials in the vehicle, and caused the of death was a result of those materials.
  • He or she operated an ATV or snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both, and caused the death of another person.

Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree
A person can be charged with vehicular manslaughter in the first degree if he or she commits the crime of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, coupled with one of the following:

  • The vehicle operator had a blood alcohol content of .18 or above.
  • Caused the death of another person when the driver knew or should have known that his or her has been suspended or revoked.
  • Was convicted for driving under the influence within the past 10 years.
  • Causes the death of more than one person.
  • Has a previous conviction for vehicular manslaughter or vehicular assault.

Aggravated Vehicular Homicide
Vehicular assault in the second degree is a class D felony. In the first degree, it is a class C felony. In New York, a class C felony is punishable by 15 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $15,000. A conviction for vehicular manslaughter in the second degree carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Taking into account the conditions for charging a person with vehicular homicide in the first degree, if a driver causes the death of one person, and another person suffers serious injuries, the driver can be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide too.

Blow or No Blow
If a police officer has a reasonable belief that you were under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both at the time of a crash, he or she is likely to ask you to perform a set of standardized field sobriety tests. New York law does not require you to take them. You can also be taken to the nearest police station for breath testing. New York law does not require you to submit to breath testing either. Given the fact that you have already caused a tragic accident, you probably don’t want to give the prosecution sufficient evidence to convict you with anyway. Refusal of field sobriety and breath tests leaves the prosecution with only one alternative. That would be to obtain a search warrant to take a blood sample. Obtaining a search warrant is likely to take a couple of hours at the least. Any such search warrant can only be attacked after blood has been drawn.

If you have been charged with vehicular homicide, you will want to retain a highly experienced and aggressive criminal and DUI attorney to represent you. Other than a blood test, we don’t recommend that you provide the police and prosecution any evidence that they need to convict you with by submitting to tests without a search warrant. Don’t give any type of statement or confession at all either. It will only be used against you in court. Invoke and protect your right to remain silent along with your right to an attorney. Contact our offices as soon as possible after being taken into custody on any vehicular homicide case. You will want aggressive and effective attorneys.


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