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What Charges Will a Drunk Driver Face after a Fatal Crash?


In 2016, the police arrested more than 1 million drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, every day, about 28 people in the United States die in a crash a drunk driver causes. This death ends the life of some people and puts the lives of others on hold.

The drunk driver is one of such people. This is because getting convicted of any type of crime is a severe issue. However, it is even more grave if the authorities convict you of a DUI death. Not only could you face jail time, but you could also face an exponential alteration of your life’s trajectory.

Below, we explore the consequences of killing someone as a drunk driver. Contact our DUI lawyers today if you are currently facing a civil lawsuit or criminal charge for a DUI death.

Civil Penalties for Killing Someone While Driving Under the Influence

If you kill someone while driving under the influence, their loved one may file a civil suit for wrongful death on behalf of the person killed. People file wrongful death suits to ensure that they have financial stability after the death of their loved ones. They use the compensation received to cover various expenses, including funeral expenses, living expenses of dependents, etc.

You could be facing a situation where you have to pay both economic and non-economic damages. In addition, you might even have to pay punitive damages for death. The court awards punitive damages to punish the driver for their grossly negligent action. However, they also use it to deter others from doing the same thing.

If you are used to the regular personal injury lawsuits, there is little difference between this and a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. However, a drunk driver faces something much bigger than the civil lawsuit that the wronged person files. They could also face criminal charges for killing someone.

Criminal Penalties for Killing Someone As a Drunk Driver

There can be different penalties for killing someone as a drunk driver. The penalty you face depends on the crime that the authorities charge you with. Some of the laws that the prosecutor could use to charge you include the following:

  • The Misdemeanor Version of a DUI Vehicular Manslaughter 

For this, you could face up to one year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines. You could also face other regular DUI penalties, such as a suspended license and alcohol or drug treatment.

  • The Felony Version of a DUI Vehicular Manslaughter 

This is more serious than the misdemeanor version; hence, the consequences are much more severe. For this, one could face between 16 months to 4 years in state prison. If other victims in the accident sustained severe injuries, you could be facing an additional three to six years in state prison. You would also face up to $10,000 in fines in addition to DUI penalties such as a suspended license.

  • Gross DUI Vehicular Manslaughter

For this sort of manslaughter, one could face four to 19 years in the state prison. If you have had any prior vehicular manslaughters, the court will consider it a pattern. This will earn you about 15 years to life in prison. The same goes for if you have had more than two DUI convictions before. In terms of fines, you could face up to $10,000. You could also face other DUI penalties in addition to all these consequences.

  • Watson Murder

There is something called a Watson murder when referring to DUI murders. It occurs if someone had had a prior DUI and the courts gave them a Watson warning that a DUI could cause death. They could also charge you with murder if you have previously completed DUI school. This is because DUI school teaches you that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can cause death.

The penalties for these are more severe than any of the previous ones. They include 15 years to life in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The court will also require you to pay restitution to the victim’s family. This will be compensation for the loss of their loved ones. The court could order this as part of your criminal sentencing. When this does not occur, the family could sue you independently.

Speak to a DUI Lawyer Today!

If you face civil or criminal charges for killing someone while driving drunk, we can help you navigate the situation. With our experienced DUI attorneys, you might be able to get a reduced charge or get off completely. You should schedule a consultation with us today to get started.