Philadelphia Vehicular Homicide Lawyer
Vehicular homicide, also known as homicide by vehicle, is a serious crime in Pennsylvania. This crime occurs when a person’s unlawful or negligent operation of a motor vehicle causes the death of another person. In this article, we will explore the legal aspects of vehicular homicide in Pennsylvania, including the elements of the crime, potential defenses, and the penalties upon conviction.
What Constitutes Vehicular Homicide in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, vehicular homicide is defined as causing the death of another person while violating any law or regulation pertaining to the operation or use of a vehicle or to the regulation of traffic, except those laws which concern driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. The violation must be the cause of death.
Elements of Vehicular Homicide in Pennsylvania
According to the case of Com. v. Heck, 341 Pa. Super. 183 (1985), the elements of vehicular homicide in Pennsylvania are as follows:
- The defendant deviated from the standard of care established by a traffic law or regulation;
- The defendant knew or should have known they were engaged in the conduct violating the traffic law;
- A death occurred;
- The death was a probable consequence of the defendant’s violation.
“The defendant deviated from the standard of care established by a traffic law or regulation; The defendant knew or should have known he was engaged in the conduct violating the traffic law; A death occurred; The death was a probable consequence of the defendant’s violation.”
It’s important to note that vehicular homicide in Pennsylvania is not a strict liability offense. This means that the prosecution must prove that the defendant acted with a certain level of culpability or fault. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has defined the level of culpability required by the statute as a showing that the defendant “has deviated from the standard of care established by… the underlying Vehicle Code provision,” and that they “knew, or should have known, they engaged in the conduct claimed to be in violation of that section”.
“The Court defined the level of culpability required by the statute as a showing that the defendant “has deviated from the standard of care established by… the underlying Vehicle Code provision,” and that they “knew, or should have known, they engaged in the conduct claimed to be in violation of that section””1
Defenses to Vehicular Homicide Charges
The defenses available in a vehicular homicide case will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case. However, some common defenses include:
- Challenging the Causation: The defendant can argue that their violation of the traffic law was not the actual cause of the victim’s death.
- Lack of Knowledge: The defendant can argue that they did not know, and could not reasonably have known, that they were violating a traffic law.
- Insufficient Evidence: The defendant can argue that the prosecution has not presented enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed vehicular homicide.
Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Pennsylvania
Vehicular homicide is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. If convicted, a person can face a maximum possible jail sentence of five years. Additionally, the person’s driver’s license will be revoked.
“As a misdemeanor of the first degree, vehicular homicide carries a maximum possible jail sentence of five years. Since a violator’s driver’s license is revoked, the penalty for vehicular homicide actually can be greater than that for involuntary manslaughter, a crime with a higher level of culpability.”
Vehicular Homicide Attorney Near Me
Vehicular homicide is a serious crime in Pennsylvania, carrying severe penalties including imprisonment and loss of driving privileges. If you are facing charges for vehicular homicide, it is crucial to seek legal counsel immediately. An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges against you, explore potential defenses, and guide you through the legal process.
Please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.