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DUI can lead to involuntary manslaughter in Virginia

This Labor Day weekend, Virginia residents are going to celebrate summer's last hurrah. They're going to go to barbecues, to the beach and to block parties. In the end, the three-day weekend is a much-needed time to relax with friends and family.

It is not unusual for people in Virginia to enjoy a beer, glass of wine or cocktail while celebrating the holiday. Sometimes, a person will go beyond a couple drinks, though, and become intoxicated. This can be a dangerous situation, especially if they get behind the wheel of a vehicle while drunk. Drunk driving charges come with a bevy of undesirable consequences, such as the loss of one's driver's license, fines or even jail time. However, the stakes are raised if a drunk driver causes a car accident, especially if it is a fatal accident.

In Virginia, it is possible for those who cause a fatal accident while driving while intoxicated to face the very serious charge of vehicular homicide, also referred to as involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is defined as an act that causes the death of another individual, even though there is not a premeditated intent to kill.

For example, a person could drive while intoxicated, and strike a second vehicle, killing the driver in that vehicle. This could lead to involuntary manslaughter charges, because the actual cause of the accident was the fact that the person was drunk driving and caused a death, even though the person never meant to kill.

In Virginia, involuntary manslaughter is considered to be a felony in the fifth degree. It can lead to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $2,500. That being said, if the court determines that the driver's actions were gross, wonton or recklessly disregarded the lives of others, then the driver could face 20 years in prison.

As this shows, drunk driving charges are ratcheted up when they involve involuntary manslaughter. Those who are facing such charges need to develop a strong defense strategy in order to counter the arguments against them, so they can reach a favorable result at trial.

Source: FindLaw, "Virginia Involuntary Manslaughter Law," accessed Aug. 26, 2017

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