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Can causing a death while driving drunk mean murder charges?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

In Louisiana, driving under the influence is a serious offense, especially if it leads to a fatal accident.

When a DWI accident results in a fatality, the legal consequences can escalate significantly. The question often arises whether a DWI accident that causes a death leads to murder charges for the driver.

DWI vs. murder charges

DWI accidents resulting in death typically fall under Louisiana’s vehicular homicide laws, which do not automatically equate to murder charges. Vehicular homicide is a separate offense, and it is important to distinguish between the two.

Second-degree murder

In certain situations, a DWI accident that leads to a fatality can indeed result in second-degree murder charges. This occurs when the prosecution can prove that the driver exhibited a reckless disregard for human life and that their actions exhibited a conscious indifference to the consequences.

To secure a second-degree murder conviction, the prosecution must establish several key elements. These include showing that the driver operated the vehicle while intoxicated, that their actions directly led to a person’s death and that they demonstrated an extreme indifference to human life.

Manslaughter charges

In cases where the driver’s actions do not meet the criteria for second-degree murder, they may still face manslaughter charges. Manslaughter typically involves a lesser degree of intent or recklessness compared to murder, but it is a serious criminal offense with its own set of penalties.

While anyone may have a lapse in judgment, it can lead to life-altering situations. In 2019 299 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities happened in Louisiana. Although an overwhelming situation, the right defense may help minimize the potential charges.