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What Charges Can I Face for Accidentally Killing Someone in Tennessee?

 Posted on November 19,2020 in Criminal Defense

Knox County criminal defense attorney reckless homicide

While it may seem like an excuse, there is something to say about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The words “murder” and “homicide” raise immediate red flags, often bringing gun violence to mind in this day and age. However, what if you caused a car accident and the other driver’s injuries were fatal? Or perhaps a weapon malfunction while hunting led to your friend’s death? These are two examples of unintentionally causing the death of another person, also known as involuntary manslaughter. The state of Tennessee recognizes that not all deaths, or crimes, are one in the same, and the law reflects this by dividing involuntary manslaughter charges into three separate criminal categories.

Reckless and Criminally Negligent Homicide

Although these two are technically separate charges, the legal descriptions are fairly similar. The state loosely defines criminal negligence and reckless homicide in order to leave room for a number of criminal behaviors to fall within these categories. Reckless homicide occurs when a person is aware of the risks of serious injury or death that their actions pose to the other person, but he or she continues to act and the other person dies as a result. A common example of this is the accidental discharging of a firearm. A more rare occurrence is playing a dangerous game like Russian roulette, where both parties are aware of the potential risks, and one of the individuals dies in the process

Criminally negligent homicide, on the other hand, occurs when a person should be aware of a risk, ignores or fails to recognize the risk, and their actions result in the other person’s death. For example, if a person drives through a stop sign and strikes another vehicle, killing the other person, he or she may face criminally negligent homicide charges. Reckless homicide is a Class D felony and criminally negligent homicide is considered a Class E felony, both resulting in fines and time in prison.

Vehicular Homicide

Not every state includes a separate charge for this form of involuntary manslaughter. Vehicular homicide is defined as the reckless killing of another person while operating a car, plane, boat, or any other motor vehicle. In order to be charged with vehicular homicide in Tennessee, there must have been at least one of the following factors at play:

  1. The driver’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person.

  2. The driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI).

  3. The driver was participating in drag racing.

Because DUI is an active, dangerous choice made by the driver, anyone convicted of vehicular homicide while intoxicated will face Class B felony charges, which include 8-30 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000. For those charged with vehicular homicide, but who were not DUI, the charge is reduced to a Class C felony, which includes 3-15 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Contact a Knox County Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, the severity of criminal charges involving the death of another person is dependent upon the minute details of the case. Because a single detail can make or break your case, it is imperative that you work with a reputable criminal defense lawyer if you are facing manslaughter charges of any kind. Whether intentional or accidental, such charges can lead to significant time spent behind bars, large fines, and a permanent criminal record. Jeffrey Coller, Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney, is dedicated to defending his clients regardless of the severity of their charges. Attorney Coller’s high attention to detail and years of experience in the Tennessee court system make him an outstanding litigator in any case. If you are facing involuntary manslaughter charges, call our skilled Knoxville, TN criminal defense lawyer today at 865-281-1000 to schedule your free consultation.


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