When someone is arrested for drunk driving, the best case scenario is they were pulled over safely and no one was hurt. All too often, however, a drunk driving arrest begins with a crash which can leave people injured. If someone dies because of the accident, the suspected drunk driver will be facing DUI charges along with an involuntary manslaughter charge.

What exactly does this charge mean? Virginia does not have a law that clearly defines manslaughter; however, the charge is determined based on how the courts have handled it in the past. There are two forms of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary, and they are frequently defined in contrast to murder. All three charges are very serious. Here are the differences:

Murder Defined

Murder is defined as killing some on purpose, with malice. “Malice” refers to an intent to do harm. People who kill unprovoked or in cold blood have malice. So do people who take delight in harming others. DUI drivers are almost never charged with murder, even if their actions kill someone, because they did not get behind the wheel with the desire to hurt someone.

Voluntary Manslaughter Defined

Voluntary manslaughter is defined as killing that has intent but not malice. It means the person who committed the killing had a desire to harm or kill the other person, but perhaps with some mitigating circumstances. For example, if a wife catches her husband with another woman and kills him, she could be charged with voluntary manslaughter. The killing was intentional, but was the result of a heated moment, not malice.

Involuntary Manslaughter Defined

This is killing someone by accident, while carrying out another crime. In addition, Virginia law specifically states that causing a death by driving under the influence is involuntary manslaughter. The drunk driver did not intend to kill anyone, nor did they have malice. But they did knowingly break the law when they got behind the wheel. Thus, the death is a result of their own illegal behavior and they are held responsible for it.

While involuntary manslaughter is not as severe a charge as murder, it is still very serious. If convicted you face up to 20 years in prison for this charge alone (in addition to the DUI charge itself). If you have been charged with DUI and involuntary manslaughter, it is imperative that you have the best DUI defense lawyer available handling your case. The Wilson Law Firm offers experienced, dedicated counsel and a free consultation. Call 703-361-6100 or fill out a contact form here and get your consultation today.