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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: November 29, 2011
A dead lady on a ground - Leckerman Law, LLC

Getting a DUI charge and conviction may change your life in many ways. Yet, if someone was killed when a DUI was committed, then the penalties are absolutely life altering. Thinking twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking is the easiest way to avoid such consequences.

Homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence is considered a felony of the second degree in Pennsylvania. This means that a conviction could result in a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $25,000 fine and a loss of license for three years following release from prison. Additionally, there is a minimum of three years of incarceration that has to be served for each person killed (e.g. if two people died, then a six-year minimum sentence is imposed). Because the minimum sentence is for three years, the time of incarceration cannot be served in a county jail. It must be served in a state prison with inmates convicted for committing other serious crimes.

For a conviction, the government is not required to prove that a person intentionally, recklessly or negligently caused the death of another person while DUI. Nonetheless, the prosecution has the burden of proving two facts. First and most obvious, the prosecution must show that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Certainly, defense issues may exist concerning field sobriety testing that was conducted and blood or breath testing errors that were committed. The use of expert witnesses to address these issues will usually be required.

Second, it must be shown that the driver’s actions caused the death of the victim. In other words, there must be a connection between the driving behavior, the accident and the death of the other person. For example, if the victim-driver ran a red light, hit the side of the drunk driver’s car and then died from the injuries, then the drunk driver did not cause the death. Often, an expert accident reconstructionist must be hired in order to recreate the details of the accident in order to determine the exact cause.

Defending a homicide by vehicle can be an expensive proposition if the right lawyer and defense experts are utilized. However, if there are defenses to be pursued, then getting the best people on board is most effective way to challenge a prosecution.

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