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Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information.
When drunk driving ends in a fatal car accident, a simple DUI can become something far more serious. Even unintentional killings can be charged as crimes, normally as what is known as involuntary manslaughter.
So what is manslaughter, and how can a DUI turn into one?
Though state definitions can vary on the details, involuntary manslaughter generally is the unintentional killing of a person that is the result of recklessness, criminal negligence, or some misdemeanor or low-level felony. Involuntary manslaughter normally has three main elements:
Manslaughter, especially the involuntary kind, differs from murder as a matter of intent. A murder conviction requires prosecutors to prove the defendant intended to kill the other person. For voluntary manslaughter, there must be an intent to harm another person, but not necessarily the intent to kill. Involuntary manslaughter requires no showing of specific intent to harm.
DUI to Manslaughter
All that it takes to turn a DUI into DUI manslaughter is a fatal accident. Driving while drunk is already inherently dangerous, and by now everyone should know that drunk driving can cause fatal accidents. And if you cause an accident while driving drunk and someone dies as a result, you could be charged with DUI manslaughter.
There are some defenses to involuntary manslaughter, but many are hard to claim in DUI scenarios. Your best bet if you've been charged with DUI manslaughter is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately