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People in Virginia who are charged after an accident in which they were believed to have been drinking and driving need to be aware that there are different levels of charges based on the outcome of the incident. One example that can lead to significant penalties is if there is a crash and a person is killed leading to the driver being charged with intoxicated manslaughter. Understanding how the law deals with these allegations is an important part of lodging a viable defense.

If a person operates a motor vehicle, engine or train and has a blood alcohol content that measures 0.08 percent or higher, then this will be considered operating a vehicle while intoxicated. An accident occurring and causing the death of another during the course of this act will lead to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. The charges can be more severe depending on the circumstances. For example, if the conduct of the alleged perpetrator was deemed to be so gross, wanton and culpable with a reckless disregard for human life, there will be a charge of aggravated involuntary manslaughter.

Aggravated involuntary manslaughter is a very serious offense with a potential for a long prison sentence of up to 20 years in jail. These charges will not preclude the accused from being prosecuted under other homicide statutes. With that in mind, the charges and penalties can be worse depending on the case. While it might sound minuscule in comparison to the charges involving the death of another, a person who is convicted will also lose his or her driving privileges, be fined, and have to have the stigma of this conviction interfering with them when they try to get a job or get into a school.

Although the death of another person in an accident is a traumatic experience for the driver, that does not automatically mean that the charges of driving under the influence should be accepted without question. It is possible that the law enforcement officer misinterpreted the situation, gave a breath test in an improper fashion, or made some other mistake in the course of the investigation. Those who are confronted with charges for intoxicated manslaughter or any drunk driving charges after a crash should discuss their case with an attorney.

Source:, "18.2-36.1 Certain conduct punishable as involuntary manslaughter," accessed on Sept. 28, 2015

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