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Probation and vehicular homicide

For a person who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking alcohol, seeing the flashing lights of a police cruiser may seem like something out of a nightmare. Many drivers are well aware of Tennessee's strict laws pertaining to drunk driving, but not everyone realizes how complex the trial and sentencing process can be.

For example, there is an aspect of Tennessee law that provides judges with wide discretion in sentencing individuals convicted of vehicular homicide involving alcohol. In some cases, a person found guilty of vehicular homicide may face a lighter sentence than a person convicted of drunk driving multiple times.

Perhaps the main factors affecting a judge's decision in such a case are what sort of sentence the family of the deceased wants for the driver and whether the driver has any previous convictions. There have been some cases in which people convicted of vehicular homicide have avoided jail time and been sentenced to eight to 12 years of probation instead. Such cases are very rare, though.

In one case, a victim's daughter requested that a man convicted of drunk driving in a fatal accident be sentenced to probation. A judge honored the request, and since that time, the man has reportedly not been arrested.

If you have been accused of vehicular homicide involving alcohol, one thing to remember is that the prosecution must prove that the proximate cause of the death and the accident was alcohol. Depending on the facts of a particular case, it may be possible to have the charge reduced or even dismissed.

Source: Claims Journal, "Tennessee Drunk Driving Loophole Angers Some," June 18, 2014

Source: The Tennessean, "Tennessee loophole allows drunk drivers that kill to get probation," Beth Warren, June 16, 2014

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