I was driving a car/boat and another person died. Can I be charged with their death?

Vehicular homicide occurs when a person is driving a vehicle and fatally harms an individual or unborn child. If the unborn child dies, even if the mother of the unborn child survives, it can still be charged a vehicular homicide. The driver must be proven to be driving recklessly when the incident occurred. Florida courts define recklessness as behavior likely to cause death or great bodily harm, or willful disregard for the safety of others. Even if the individual does not die at the scene of the accident but succumbs to their injuries soon after, you can still be charged with vehicular homicide. Intent is not an element when being charged; the prosecution will not care that you did not want to kill another person. They just need to prove that someone died, that you caused the accident, and that you were behaving recklessly.

Many scenarios highlight a vehicular homicide charge. You could be turning right at an intersection and hit a person on the crosswalk during their right-of-way because you are trying to beat the red light. You could be driving excessively at 70 MPH in a 45 MPH zone and hit another person’s car, causing them to lose control and crash. You could be trying to pass another car in a “No Pass” zone and hit an oncoming car. In some cases where a person fell asleep at the wheel and killed another person when their car crashed, they were convicted of vehicular homicide because they knew of their tired state but drove anyway, acting recklessly and putting others in harm’s way. All these scenarios come from Florida court cases where the defendant has a vehicular homicide charge because their reckless driving was endangering others.

Florida also has a charge for vessel homicide. Whereas a ‘vehicle’ is defined as a land motor vehicle, such as a car, a motorcycle, a semi, etc., a ‘vessel’ is defined under Florida Rules as a watercraft vehicle: an airboat, a barge, boat, canoe, commercial fishing vessel, and commercial parasailing. Vessel homicide follows the same requirements and charges as vehicular homicide.  The same as above, even if the individual does not die at the scene of the accident but succumbs to their injuries soon after, you can still be charged with vessel homicide.

Vessel homicide scenarios could include a person dying after a tubing accident because there was not a spotter, parasailing too close to another vessel and your sail deterring their line of vision which causes a crash, or behaving recklessly and driving your boat into a tree after losing control. All these scenarios come from Florida court cases where the defendant has a vessel homicide charge.

Florida courts will charge vehicular and vessel homicide with either a 2nd or 1st-degree felony, depending on the situation. A 2nd-degree felony will result in up to 15 years in prison, up to 15 years of probation, and up to a $10,000 fine. A 1st-degree felony, which can happen from hitting a person and running from the scene of the crime (hit-and-run) or not giving information at the scene of the incident, will result in up to 30 years in prison, up to 30 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine. Vehicular homicide and vessel homicide complete definitions and charges can be found under Florida Statutes 782.071 and 782.072.

There is always a risk when a person gets behind the wheel of a car or boat. How you behave while driving could mean the difference between an accident and a vehicular or vessel homicide charge. Should an accident occur where a person has died or is currently in the hospital, and you have been charged or arrested with vehicular or vessel homicide, an experienced criminal attorney at Adams & Luka, P.A. can help you fight your case and work to get your charges handled. Call us today for a free consultation.



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