Prosecutors in Tennessee often try to file the most severe charges that they can against an individual who has been accused of breaking the law. Consider a scenario wherein someone causes a deadly car crash. Although the situation could lead to just a simple reckless driving or impaired driving charge, the prosecutor might instead accuse someone of vehicular homicide.
In Tennessee, a vehicular homicide charge could carry penalties that include up to $25,000 in fines and 30 years in prison. Generally, a prosecutor will have to prove two elements of the case to secure a conviction in a criminal trial.
Intoxication as causation
To convict someone of vehicular homicide, the state will need evidence that someone was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They will also need to show that the presence of those intoxicating substances was the underlying factor that likely caused the crash. Chemical test results, field sobriety test results and even dashboard or traffic camera footage could all play a role in establishing someone’s intoxication at the wheel.
An individual needs to know that they are under the influence and that their actions are unsafe and choose to engage in them anyway. Someone drugged at a party where they only consumed a single alcoholic beverage could possibly use their involuntary intoxication as a defense against vehicular manslaughter because they were not reckless or intentional when making the decision to get behind the wheel.
Prosecutors who fail to meet both of those standards when building their cases may not be able to secure a conviction during a criminal trial. A successful defense strategy, therefore, might focus on undermining the prosecution’s case related to either of those three factors.
A vehicular homicide charge could irrevocably change someone’s life. Understanding how the state builds a vehicular homicide case might inspire someone to seek legal guidance in order to give themselves the best possible opportunity to avoid a conviction.