1005 N. Marion St.
Tampa, FL 33602
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Attorney for Vehicular Homicide in Tampa

Not every fatality that occurs on the roadway, as tragic as it may be, should result in an arrest or prosecution for vehicular manslaughter. In many of these cases, conduct that would normally warrant only a traffic infraction suddenly results in vehicular manslaughter arrest only because a death resulted from the accident. The harm that comes from these offenses is always unintentional.

Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you on these charges as soon after the accident as possible is critical. Never make a statement to law enforcement once a criminal investigation begins until after you have spoken with an attorney.

If you were arrested for Vehicular Homicide (often called "Vehicular Manslaughter" or "Involuntary Manslaughter") in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, or Polk County, then contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case.

Call 813-250-0500 today.


"Vehicular Homicide" under Florida Statute 782.071

Under Florida Statute § 782.071, vehicular homicide (often called "vehicular manslaughter") is an accusation that a driver killed another human being by operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another.

Vehicular homicide is a felony of the second degree punishable by up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison. The offense can be enhanced to a first-degree felony if it is also alleged that the person failed to give information and render aid as required by s. 316.062.

Many vehicular manslaughter cases involve allegations that the driver was intoxicated.


Requirements for Vehicular Homicide under F.S. 782.071

Vehicular homicide is a lesser included offense of manslaughter, created to cover the hiatus between manslaughter by culpable negligence and the non-criminal traffic offense of reckless driving created by section 316.029, Fla. Stat. (1975). McCreary v. State, 371 So.2d 1024, 1026 (Fla.1979).

The culpable conduct necessary to sustain proof of manslaughter under section 782.07 is conduct of “a gross and flagrant character, evincing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or there is that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or that reckless indifference to the rights of others which is equivalent to an intentional violation of them.” Id.

Neither carelessness nor ordinary negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle are sufficient to sustain a conviction for vehicular homicide. By definition, the crime of vehicular homicide requires proof of the elements of reckless driving. See State v. Lebron, 954 So.2d 52 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).


The Definition of Reckless Driving

The term "reckless driving" is defined in § 316.192(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2012), as follows:

(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

 The term “willful” is defined as “intentional, knowing and purposeful” and “wanton” means “with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with the knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or property.” See W.E.B. v. State, 553 So.2d 323 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989).

In Luzardo v. State, 147 So. 3d 1083, 1088 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014), the court considered the requirements to prove that the driver engaged in reckless conduct “likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to another. The court explained:  

The determination of a prima facie case of recklessness in a vehicular homicide case is a fact intensive, ad hoc inquiry. The focus is on the actions of the defendant and, considering the circumstances, whether it was reasonably foreseeable that death or great bodily harm could result. D.E. v. State, 904 So.2d 558, 562 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005).

Most of the cases we have found that uphold a vehicular homicide conviction consist of facts much more egregious than ours.

See, e.g. Santisteban v. State, 72 So.3d 187 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (finding reckless driving when defendant drove a gasoline truck, filled with 9,000 gallons of fuel, at excessive speeds around a curving highway ramp, while weaving around other drivers);

State v. Lebron, 954 So.2d 52 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007) (finding reckless driving where defendant, while speeding, attempted to pass a slower vehicle from the right lane, in the middle of traffic);

 D.E. v. State, 904 So.2d 558 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005) (finding sufficient evidence to support reckless driving, when juvenile knowingly drove the car without adult supervision in violation of the law, far in excess of the speed limit, around a dangerous curve, near a school, in the dark, and in an area likely to become congested);

Martinez v. State, 692 So.2d 199 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997) (finding sufficient evidence to support a conviction for vehicular homicide where defendant drove 70 mph in a 30–mph zone, on a curving section of road, while passing another vehicle in a no-passing zone);

Lewek v. State, 702 So.2d 527 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) (finding evidence was sufficient to establish reckless driving where defendant drove a car with shallow tire treads, a missing lug nut, and window tinting that was too dark at 60 mph in a 45–mph zone and failed to reduce speed for a yellow light, subsequently running a red light);

State v. Knight, 622 So.2d 188 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993) (finding a prima facie case for vehicular homicide where defendant did not possess a valid driver's license, was driving 65–70 mph in a 35–mph residential area, and was operating a damaged vehicle without the consent of the owner);

Wright v. State, 573 So.2d 998 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) (evidence was sufficient to sustain a vehicular homicide conviction where defendant had consumed both a full quart and half a six-pack of malt liquor, was travelling approximately 20 mph over the speed limit, was driving in the oncoming lane of traffic to pass another vehicle, and did not attempt to slow down or maneuver to avoid striking the victim);

Byrd v. State, 531 So.2d 1004 (Fla. 5th DCA 1988) (finding sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for vehicular homicide where defendant drove at twice the posted speed limit in heavy traffic, was warned to slow down, and only tried to stop about six feet from another stopped vehicle);

Savoia v. State, 389 So.2d 294 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (finding sufficient evidence to support a vehicular homicide conviction where defendant, driving on a wet road, drove at 90 mph while intoxicated and crashed into a parked truck without attempting to apply brakes). Additionally, it is important to note that speeding is not itself a necessary component of vehicular homicide, as evidenced by multiple cases upholding convictions for vehicular homicide, despite an absence of speed.


Preserving Evidence in a Vehicular Homicide Case

To prosecute a vehicular homicide charge, the state does not need to prove that the driver had the intent to harm anyone, but instead, that the operation of the vehicle was in a manner likely to cause the death or great bodily injury of another.

At the Sammis Law Firm, we understand the importance hiring the most qualified expert witnesses, including an accident reconstruction expert in Florida who will play a critical role in the defense. Florida law enforcement officers will conduct their own investigation to support the vehicular manslaughter charges. But it is also important for the defense to quickly retain an expert to conduct an independent accident investigation and reconstruction to show defenses that exist in the case.

Our criminal defense lawyers take a scholarly approach to fighting vehicular manslaughter cases including filing motions to suppress evidence, motions to dismiss criminal charges, and motions in limini to exclude prejudicial evidence at trial. The key to obtaining the best result is fighting each aspect of the state's case and gradual and systematically dismantling the prosecutor's case piece by piece.

Furthermore, steps must be immediately taken to preserve all of the evidence or fight to protect your rights during the investigation, including the following:

  1. Having an attorney present for any interrogation by law enforcement;
  2. Taking pictures of the damage sustained by the vehicles involved in the accident;
  3. Taking pictures of the location where the accident occurred, including any marks left on the roadway;
  4. Obtaining witness statements of anyone who witnessed the accident; and
  5. Obtaining hospital medical records of anyone injured or killed after the accident.

Vehicular Homicide Statistics

 


Tampa Attorney for Vehicular Homicide Charges

If you have been arrested for vehicular manslaughter in Florida, including Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, Pasco, or Hernando County, then contact the Sammis Law Firm to discuss ways to aggressively fight the serious charges that have been made against you.

Your freedom and liberty depend on the actions that your attorney takes early in the case, as well as the strategy your criminal defense attorney uses throughout the investigation and prosecution.

Our criminal defense attorneys represent both men and women charged with serious driving offenses such as DUI, DUI manslaughter or vehicular homicide throughout the Tampa Bay area including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, Dade City, Brooksville, Bartow, Bradenton, and Sarasota, Florida.

Call 813-250-0500 today to speak directly with an attorney about your case. 


Additional Resources

Overview of Vehicular Homicide Laws Across the United States - Visit the MADD website to find an overview of the vehicular homicide laws across all 50 states that summarizes the criminal penalties, the name of the charge, the statute number, and the maximum fine. The article explains why the penalties actually imposed can vary from a few days in jail followed by probation to a life sentence.


Related Charges from a Vehicle Crash Involving Death, Personal Injury or Serious Bodily Injury:

  • DUI Manslaughter under Florida Law

Under Florida Statute § 316.193(3)(c)(3), DUI manslaughter under is an accusation that the accused drove while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, and as a result of the DUI, the accused caused or contributed to the cause of the death of victim.

  • Vehicular Homicide under Florida Law

Vehicular Homicide is a second degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of fifteen years in Florida State Prison, and a $10,000,00 fine. However, the offense may be enhanced to a first degree felony punishable by thirty years in prison if the driver willfully left the scene of an accident.

  • Driving Under the Influence with Serious Bodily Injury under Florida Law
  • Driving under the Influence with Property Damage or Personal Injury under Florida Law

This article was last updated on Friday, May 27, 2017.

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