Unfortunately, in Maine, there are numerous cases each year of car accidents that end with a fatality. In some of these cases, individuals involved will be charged with Vehicular Manslaughter for causing the death of another person.
In Maine, Manslaughter is defined as recklessly, or with criminal negligence, causing the death of another person. Manslaughter is a Class A crime and is thus punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. Undoubtedly, Manslaughter is one of the most serious charges that a person can be accused of in Maine. If you, or someone you know, has been charged with Manslaughter, it is critical that you immediately speak to an experienced Maine criminal defense lawyer who can help you navigate through your case. There are issues, including gathering evidence and information, that need immediate attention.
Vehicular Manslaughter may be charged if you are driving in a way that is considered reckless or negligent. One way that this may occur is if you are accused of being drunk or drugged while you are driving, and you cause a fatal accident. Manslaughter cases are particularly devastating because the victim is oftentimes a passenger in the same vehicle as the accused, thus the deceased victim may be a friend or family member of the person accused. Vehicular Manslaughter cases are intense cases, with particularly serious consequences.
If you are accused of Vehicular Manslaughter you are not only facing the above-mentioned incarceration and fines, you are also facing probation and a significant license suspension. If a person is convicted of Vehicular Manslaughter, then the Secretary of State must revoke that person’s license (note that it will be revoked and not just suspended) for a period of at least 5 years. If it is proven that the person was Operating Under the Influence at the time, then the person’s license will be permanently revoked. Ten years after the date that the person is no longer incarcerated, the person may petition the Secretary of State for relicensure. However, it should be noted that the Secretary of State will notify the family of the victim and the family’s testimony will be considered to determine whether or not the Secretary of State will reissue the person’s driver’s license.
Another layer of complexity that is added to a Vehicular Manslaughter case is a civil lawsuit that is always brought by the victim’s family. This is why immediately contacting your insurance company and/or insurance agent is critical. You have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company and they have a duty to defend you in the civil case. They need to be put on notice immediately that an accident resulting in a death has occurred. It is critical that you do this immediately to be sure you receive the full insurance coverage and legal defense in the civil case.
It is important to note that not all accidents that result in deaths will also result in a person being charged with Vehicular Manslaughter. As part of the State’s case, they must not only prove that the death occurred, but also that the death was caused by another person’s reckless or criminally negligent actions. Some car accidents involving fatalities are simply accidents, and while tragic, there is no criminal cause of the death. Distinguishing between manslaughter and an accident is a complex task and it is important that if you are accused of Vehicular Manslaughter or any other criminal offense, you consult with an experienced Maine criminal defense attorney that knows how to defend your case.