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 a 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.

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(s).

Vehicular homicide in Washington State is a class A felony and is punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW:

RCW 46.61.520 Vehicular Homicide – Penalty

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, 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.

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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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.