Most people think of DWI / DUI as simply operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of greater than .08%. In Virginia, DWI covers a wider range of circumstances. For example, a person is guilty of Driving While Intoxicated in Virginia if any combination of self-administered drugs or any combination of drugs and alcohol impairs his ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. There are also proscribed levels for other drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine. Any of the listed forms of intoxication or impairment may give rise to a charge for DWI causing injury. If a death results, the defendant may be charged with involuntary manslaughter or aggravated involuntary manslaughter.
DWI Causing Injury in Virginia
The penalties for DWI causing injury or death are much more significant than those connected with a simple first-time DWI charge. When a person driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs unintentionally causes “serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment,” the charge is a Class 6 felony.
A Class 6 felony carries a sentence of 1-5 years in prison, although the jury has the discretion to reduce the penalty to up to one year and a $2,500 fine. In addition, a person convicted under this section will have his or her driver's license revoked.
DWI Causing Death in Virginia
Under Virginia law, a person who causes the death of another human being while operating a vehicle in violation of the state's DWI statute is guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is punishable as a Class 5 felony, which means a sentence of 1-10 years. Again, the jury has the discretion to reduce the sentencing range to up to 12 months and a $2,500 fine.
In some cases, the penalties may be even more significant. Where the defendant's conduct is found to have been so “gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life,” the charge is elevated to aggravated involuntary manslaughter. The penalty for aggravated involuntary manslaughter under this section is more severe in two ways. First, the sentencing range is from 1-20 years in prison. Second, the jury has no option to reduce the sentencing range, and there is a mandatory minimum one year in prison.
As in the case of a DWI causing injury, conviction of involuntary manslaughter by means of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol will result in a driver's license revocation.
Getting the Help You Need in a DWI Causing Injury or Death Case
A DWI causing injury case or an involuntary manslaughter case that is based on driving while intoxicated carries heavy penalties. But, as in any other criminal case, it is the prosecution's burden to prove all elements of the crime. A threshold element of either of these crimes is that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle in violation of the state's DWI statute.
That means that all of the same potential weak points in a standard DWI case will come into play. For example, your attorney may question the validity of the BAC test administered, or question the evidence of impairment in a case not based on numbers.
Sentencing in a DWI Causing Injury Case
A DWI causing injury case may result in up to 5 years in prison. An involuntary manslaughter case rooted in a DWI carries penalties of up to 10 or even 20 years in prison. Obviously, the risks are serious. But, it's equally important to note that when you enter the courtroom in connection with one of these crimes, a wide range of outcomes are possible.Except in the case of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, there is no mandatory minimum prison sentence associated with DWI causing injury or even death.
Contact a Fairfax DUI Defense Lawyer Today!
If you're facing charges for DWI causing injury, there's a lot on the line. You can't afford to roll the dice. An experienced Fairfax DUI defense lawyer can examine the case against you and help you determine what defenses may be available to you. Whether you have a strong defense that warrants taking your case to trial or you'd be better served by attempting to negotiate a favorable plea agreement, a local criminal defense attorney can help. Call The Law Office of Wilfred Ward Yeargan or send an online message to schedule a free consultation to discuss your best options moving forward.