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Does Washington State Have a Vehicular Homicide Law?

Does Washington State Have a Vehicular Homicide Law?

Washington is one of several states throughout the country that has specific statutes which allow for a vehicular homicide charge to be brought against an individual who kills another person through the operation of a motor vehicle, either intentionally or negligently. So yes, Washington does have a vehicular homicide law.

Vehicular homicide charges carry very serious consequences for offenders. We often see defendants face vehicular homicide charges in car accident cases involving recklessness, driver impairment, or some combination of the two. 

Vehicular Homicide For DUI Collisions

The irresponsible behavior of DUI drivers causes immeasurable pain and tens of millions of dollars in harm to innocent victims and their loved ones in Washington state every year.

The attorneys at Davis Law Group have helped victims of serious drunk driving accidents for more than 25 years get the justice they deserve for their injuries and other damages.

RCW 46.61.520 Vehicular Homicide – Penalty

It is common for drunk drivers to be charged with vehicular homicide if they cause a motor vehicle accident which results in the death of a person. Vehicular homicide in Washington State is a Class A felony and is punishable under RCW 46.61.520:

1. When the death of any person ensues within three years as a proximate result of injury proximately caused by the driving of any vehicle by any person, the driver is guilty of vehicular homicide if the driver was operating a motor vehicle:

  • While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drugs, as defined by RCW 46.61.502; or
  • In a reckless manner; or
  • With disregard for the safety of others.

2. Vehicular homicide is a class A felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW, except that, for a conviction under subsection (1)(a) of this section, an additional two years shall be added to the sentence for each prior offense as defined in RCW 46.61.5055.

Note: Subsection (2) clarifies some specifics of the sentencing guidelines related to vehicular homicide involving a DUI. 

How Washington's Law Compares to Other States

The state of Washington once had an extremely low average sentence for vehicular homicide compared to other states in the U.S., but that changed in 2012 when the state increased the sentencing grid for a person convicted of vehicular homicide. Now, the sentencing range for vehicular homicide is between 78 and 102 months - the same as First Degree Manslaughter.

Vehicular homicide sentences in other states average between 3-10 years prison time for vehicular homicide. Fines for these offenses vary significantly from state-to-state as well.

More About The Wrongful Death Legal Process

Davis Law Group is a proud supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and takes a strong stand against impaired driving. We have seen the devastating effects that result from the carelessness and recklessness of drunk drivers on Washington roadways. 

Vehicular homicide charges fall under the criminal side of the legal justice system, and therefore are essentially out of the control of a private attorney. While we do not have any direct influence on a prosecutor's decision to pursue criminal charges against a defendant who caused harm to one of our clients, we regularly cooperate with the local prosecutors offices in an effort to ensure our clients feel that justice has been served. 

If you have any additional questions about vehicular homicide and wrongful death claims as a result of a fatal car accident, please do not hesitate to contact Davis Law Group or call 206-727-4000 today to schedule a free legal consultation with our award-winning car accident attorneys.

Chris Davis
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Chris Davis is the founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.