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Expect stiff penalties when a DUI results in someone’s death

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2023 | Criminal Cases & DUI

DUI penalties in Tennessee are among the strictest in the nation. This is especially true if a person commits vehicular homicide due to intoxication.

What is intoxication in Tennessee?

To understand vehicular homicide due to intoxication, first you must know what it means to be intoxicated in Tennessee.

A motorist is intoxicated in Tennessee if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more. This is per se evidence of intoxication, which means the police need no further evidence to place a motorist under arrest for DUI.

However, a motorist who cannot safely operate a motor vehicle due to the intoxicating effects of alcohol can also be arrested for DUI if there is evidence such as police observation or field sobriety tests that satisfies the probable cause element of a lawful arrest. This is true even if the motorist’s BAC is under the legal limit.

Vehicular homicide based on intoxication

In Tennessee, a motorist can commit vehicular homicide if they are driving while intoxicated and both recklessly and directly caused someone to die. A motorist is reckless when they know they are taking a risk and decide to ignore that risk. In addition, the risk must substantially deviate from the actions a reasonable motorist would take behind the wheel.

While it can be argued that a motorist who is drunk cannot appreciate the risks they are taking at the time, it can also be argued that all motorists know that drunk driving is risky behavior, whether they are sober or intoxicated.

Vehicular homicide due to intoxication is a class B felony that can result in eight to 30 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $25,000. However, if aggravating factors are present, the crime is a class A felony that can result in 15 to 60 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $50,000.

In addition, if the person killed was a parent, the motorist might be responsible for paying child support to the victim’s children under the recently enacted “Ethan, Haile, and Bentley’s Law.”

Getting a DUI in Tennessee is a serious situation, but the penalties rise dramatically if the motorist directly and recklessly causes someone’s death. Vehicular homicide due to intoxication can lead to thousands in fines, decades in prison and even the payment of child support for the victim’s children until they are grown. It is a crime to take seriously, especially when developing your DUI defense strategy.