Under the Utah Criminal Code, causing the death of another person while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs results in a charge of automobile homicide. Needless to say, it is a serious felony charge that carries the potential for years of prison time — but as is the case with any DUI charge, automobile homicide is rarely an open-and-shut case. Automobile homicide cases are almost always filled with uncertainties. Just about everything is subject to question, interpretation, judicial discretion and negotiation. And that is where a strong defense comes into play.
Criminal defense attorneys have a number of approaches available to minimize, or in some cases even eliminate, the charges in an automobile homicide case. Depending on the specifics of your situation, these may include:
- Contesting the validity of the blood alcohol level test. If alcohol was involved, faulty equipment, improper administering of the test, careless handling of the evidence, circumstances that can alter test results — all of these are challenges that must be overcome by the prosecution in order to prove guilt.
- Questioning the actions and credibility of the arresting officer. If your rights were violated in the course of the arrest, or if there is reason to believe the arresting officer acted improperly or without reasonable cause, some evidence may be found inadmissible, damaging the prosecution’s case against you.
- Plea-bargaining to a lesser charge. Utah recognizes two levels of automobile homicide: a second-degree felony based on a charge of operating a vehicle in a criminally negligent manner, and a lesser third-degree felony based on simple negligence. In many cases, a defense attorney can get charges reduced from a second-degree to a third-degree felony by arguing that the defendant’s actions did not constitute criminal negligence. Such negligence is defined as a gross deviation from the care an ordinary person should exercise to avoid a substantial and unjustifiable risk (which can be very difficult for the prosecution to prove). If you are a first-time offender, you may be able to have your charges reduced even further.