Vehicular Injury and Death by Vehicle Defense Lawyers

Causing serious injury or death of another human being through unlawful driving can be a very serious crime in North Carolina. The extent to which you can face penalties for these charges can vary greatly depending on several factors, including your intentions, the kinds of unlawful driving you’re being accused of, past convictions, the manner in which the person had acquired injuries or died, and how you reacted to the situation immediately after it happened. Most cases of criminal charges for death or serious injury by vehicle involve driving while impaired (DWI), though there are exceptions.

As these factors require intense scrutiny of the evidence involved, which in many cases can come down to witness testimony, it is extremely important that you hire a skilled defense attorney immediately. The lawyers at Tarlton | Polk have the experience and skills needed to examine all the evidence and claims against you and devise a legal strategy to get the best possible outcome.

car crash leading to vehicular homicide or serious injury by vehicle

Serious Injury by Vehicle Charges

Causing a serious injury by vehicle is a felony in North Carolina when it involves driving while impaired (DWI). Serious injury is loosely defined as “injuries that can cause someone to experience great pain and suffering.” Generally, the court will consider a variety of factors to decide whether the injury was serious, including:

  • Hospitalization (time, cost, number of procedures, etc.)
  • Loss of blood
  • Time off work due to injuries
  • Pain experienced
  • Potential for long-term or permanent disability

There are two kinds of serious injury by vehicle charges in North Carolina:

Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle

A person is guilty of this crime when they unintentionally causes serious injury to another person while engaged in the offense of DWI, and their DWI offense was the immediate cause of the serious injury.

A conviction is punished as a class F felony which has a sentencing range of 10 to 41 months in prison. The defendant’s driver’s license can also be revoked for up to four years.

Aggravated Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle

A person is guilty of this crime when they commit the same as above while also having a prior conviction of impaired driving within 7 years of the date of the offense. Their prior impaired driving conviction does not need to involve a case of serious injury by vehicle.

A conviction is punished as a class E felony which has a sentencing range of 15 to 63 months in prison. The defendant’s driver’s license can also be revoked permanently.

Death by Vehicle Charges

Vehicular homicide charges in North Carolina that are committed without intent to kill are referred to as “death by vehicle”. Unlike serious injury, there is not much ambiguity as to whether a person is dead or not, which does mean there are less avenues to defend against these charges. However, prosecutors still need to prove that the defendant was impaired and that the impairment was the direct cause of death.

Death by vehicle charges fall under a different set of statute in North Carolina from serious injury, with four possible charges:

Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle

A person commits this crime if they unintentionally caused the death of another person while engaged in driving activity that violated traffic and vehicle regulations, other than impaired driving, and their unlawful activity was the direct cause of death.

A conviction is punished as a class A1 misdemeanor, with a sentencing range of 1 to 150 days and a steep fine. The defendant’s driver’s license can be revoked for at least a year.

Felony Death by Vehicle

A person commits this crime if they unintentionally caused the death of another person while engaged in driving activity that violated traffic and vehicle regulations, other than impaired driving, and their unlawful activity was the direct cause of death.

A conviction is punished as a class D felony which has a sentencing range of 38 to 160 months in prison. The defendant’s driver’s license can also be revoked permanently.

Aggravated Felony Death by Vehicle

A person commits a felony death by vehicle while also having a prior conviction of impaired driving within 7 years of the date of the offense. Their prior impaired driving conviction does not need to involve a case of death by vehicle.

A conviction is also punished as a class D felony which has a sentencing range of 64 to 160 months in prison. The defendant’s driver’s license can also be revoked permanently.

Repeat Felony Death by Vehicle Offenders

A person is guilty of this crime if they had a prior conviction of felony death by vehicle or aggravated felony death by vehicle, while committing another act of felony death by vehicle.

A conviction is punished as a class B2 felony, which has a sentencing range of 94 to 393 months. The defendant’s driver’s license will also be permanently revoked if it had not already been revoked due to prior convictions.

Hit and Run Charges

In North Carolina, drivers have the duty to stop in the event of a crash and remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives to complete the investigation. A person is guilty of a “hit and run” when they are driving and get involved in a collision with another vehicle, property or human being, and fail to meet this duty. There charges can often co-occur with serious injury or death by vehicle charges are can range from misdemeanors to felonies depending on various circumstances and actions taken.

The following are possible hit and run or related charges you could face:

Failure to Stop or Remain at the Scene When an Injury or Death Occurs

If a person drives a vehicle that is involved in a crash and the driver reasonably knows the incident caused serious bodily injury or death to another person, they are guilty of this crime if they do any of the following:

  • Fail to immediately stop at the scene of the crash.
  • Fail to remain with the vehicle until law enforcement complete their investigation and authorize them to leave the vehicle.
  • Enable, allow, or agree to the removal of the vehicle before completion of a law enforcement investigation.

If only a serious injury occurred, a conviction is punished as a class H felony. If a serious bodily injury or death occurred, it is punished as a class F felony. “Serious injury” has been described above as something that causes great pain and suffering, while “serious bodily injury” usually creates substantial risk of death or permanent impairment.

A passenger of any vehicle involved also has a duty to remain at the scene. If a passenger commits this offense by acting as the driver to leave the scene or enabling the vehicle’s removal without law enforcement’s consent, they will be guilty of a class H felony.

Failure to Give Information or Assistance when an Injury or Death Occurs

If a person drives a vehicle that is involved in a crash and the driver reasonably knows the incident caused serious bodily injury or death to another person, they are guilty of this crime if they do any of the following:

  • Fail to give their name, address, and driver’s license and license plate number to any person struck or the driver or occupant of any vehicle collided with.
  • Fail to offer reasonable assistance to any person injured in the crash.

A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. A passenger can also be guilty of this offense if they were in any of the vehicles involved, and the penalty for the offense is the same as the driver.

Failure to Stop or Give Information when Injury or Death is not Apparent and only Property Damages Occur

This crime is similar to failure to stop or remain at the scene described before, but when there only property is damaged or is it not apparent that someone was injured or killed.

This most often occurs when a driver flees the scene of a collision with property that nobody occupies, or the driver would not have reasonably known a person was in, such as a fixed object like a guardrail or parked car.

A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. A passenger can be guilty of this offense as well if they act as the driver to leave the scene, which carries the same penalty.

Failure to Notify Authorities

A person is guilty of this offense if they drive a vehicle that is involved in a reportable accident and fail to immediately notify the important law enforcement agency by the quickest means of communication.

Generally, if the accident occurs within municipality, they must notify the police department. If not, they should notify the State Highway Patrol, the local sheriff, or county police.

A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor.

Defending Against Serious Injury or Death by Vehicle Charges

With these serious penalties on the line, it’s critical to hire an experienced attorney. The serious injury and death by vehicle lawyers at Tarlton Polk Law have extensive training in these and related cases. Many serious injury cases stem from a DWI, and our team has tried over 500 DWI cases in Wake County District Court, as well as trying numerous jury trials in Superior CourtBrad Polk and Raymond Tarlton learned their criminal trial skills first as prosecutors. Now, they apply these talents to represent defendants facing drunk driving charges. They frequently help clients achieve dismissals and acquittals.

If you would like to learn more about how we an help, or request a consultation with us, then leave us a message or call us today.

 

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