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What Is Vehicular Homicide in Tennessee?

Drunk driving can cause harm to other people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths in crashes involving alcohol in Tennessee from 2003–2012 is 3,423. What happens to those on the other end of this statistic?

There are harsh criminal penalties for someone facing a vehicular homicide charge in Tennessee. It is important to understand the nuances of the law and how vital it is to have a criminal defense.

Definition of vehicular homicide

According to Tennesee statutes, someone commits vehicular homicide by recklessly causing another's death while driving. There are four categories of dangerous driving:

  • Under the intoxication of alcohol or drugs
  • In a dangerous manner that creates a significant risk of serious injury or death
  • In a construction zone
  • While street racing

It is important to note that, while all these behaviors may constitute vehicular homicide, they each come with their own penalties. 

Elements of a vehicular homicide offense

The prosecutor must prove three things:

  • Recklessness: The motorist must be aware that he or she is doing something dangerous, but disregards the risk. 
  • Causation: There must be proof of the driver being the direct cause of death. 
  • Intoxication: Under Tennessee law, intoxication means ingesting alcohol or drugs that cause impairment, or having a BAC of at least 0.08%. 

Someone facing a charge for vehicular homicide may be able to challenge any of these.

Penalties for vehicular homicide

The possible consequences of a conviction depend on the category and circumstances. The maximum penalties are as follows:

  • Driving in a manner that creates a serious risk of severe injury or death: Class C felony with 15 years of imprisonment and $10,000 fine.
  • Intoxication: Class B felony with 30 years of imprisonment and $25,000 fine.
  • Construction zone death: Class D felony with 12 years of imprisonment and $5,000 fine.
  • Street racing: Class C felony.
  • An aggravated offense with prior convictions: Class A felony with 60 years of imprisonment and $50,000 fine.

There are defenses to every criminal charge, including vehicular homicide. After an arrest, talk with an experienced criminal lawyer as soon as possible.

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