There are more bad drivers on the roads today than ever before. Every time you get on the road, you trust that everyone around you will make safe decisions. However, accidents do happen. Sometimes there is someone to blame. In certain cases, the charge of vehicular homicide can be brought against a defendant. It is therefore an important part of Denver criminal defense to understand this charge and its potential repercussions.

What is vehicular homicide?

Under the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S 18-3-106), there are two types of vehicular homicide:

  • A person causes the death of another person by the reckless operation of a vehicle. This is a class 4 felony.
  • A person causes the death of another person by the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or one or more impairing drugs. This is a class 3 felony and a strict liability crime.

What is the definition of reckless?

Reckless is defined as any action which fails to comply with the rules of the road in a way that makes other people less safe. Examples can include but are not limited to: driving at high speeds, failing to obey traffic signals and signs, and swerving out of a lane.

Which drugs are included in the second type of vehicular homicide?

A blood alcohol content over 0.05 could qualify a driver as impaired depending on other evidence, but a blood alcohol content over 0.08 automatically qualifies a driver as impaired. A driver can also be categorized as impaired if more than five nanograms of delta 9-tetrahydracannibol are found per one milliliter of blood. Additionally, impairing drugs include but are not limited to: classic drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines, controlled substances such as opiates, and inhalants like glue or aerosol sprays. It is important to note that having a prescription for any of these impairing substances does not constitute a valid defense to the charge of vehicular homicide.

What is a strict liability crime?

A strict liability crime is defined as a crime in which the defendant either did an action or did not do an action. It is a crime in which the defendant’s intent does not matter. Therefore, in these cases, the defense “I didn’t mean to do it!” has no legal standing.

What are the penalties if found guilty of vehicular homicide?

The penalties for a guilty verdict depend upon which version of a vehicular homicide charge was brought against a defendant, however both penalties are substantial. A reckless driving vehicular homicide (a class 4 felony) can carry a prison sentence of two (2) to six (6) years and a fine between $2,000 and $500,000. A driving under the influence vehicular homicide charge (a class 3 felony) can carry a prison sentence of four (4) to twelve (12) years and a fine between $3,000 and $750,000.

FeloniesVehicular Homicide in Colorado — What You Need to Know