Getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can put your future in serious jeopardy. The stakes are even higher if another person is seriously injured or killed in a DUI accident. If you have been arrested for DUI manslaughter in Mississippi, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as you can.
Mississippi criminal defense attorney William Wayne Housley has over two decades of experience handling complex DUI-related criminal cases. He knows that the consequences of a DUI manslaughter conviction can be devastating and will fight to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Call Housley Law today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
Criminal Charges for Fatal DUI Accidents
While some states in the country have dedicated vehicular manslaughter laws, Mississippi does not have a specific law addressing manslaughter DUI. Instead, deaths caused by drivers under the influence are charged:
- Under the state's more general manslaughter statutes, or
- As an aggravated DUI.
DUI Manslaughter in Mississippi
Mississippi's manslaughter statutes are broadly defined and can cover a wide range of dangerous behaviors.
In Mississippi, you can face charges of manslaughter under MS Code §97-3-47 if, while acting with culpable negligence, you unintentionally cause the death of another person. Culpable negligence requires more than simple negligence. Culpable negligence exists when you act knowingly and with wanton disregard or utter indifference to the safety of others.
Is Driving Under the Influence Automatically Culpable Negligence?
Does getting behind the wheel of a car after consuming drugs or alcohol automatically make you guilty of culpable negligence? According to Mississippi courts, the answer is no. Driving under the influence can be a factor in determining if you are guilty of culpable negligence, but it is not enough, on its own, to constitute the offense.
When will driving under the influence be enough to constitute culpable negligence? Generally speaking, it must “create an abnormal mental and physical condition which tends to deprive one of the clearness of intellect and control of himself which he would otherwise possess.” In other words, intoxication must substantially cloud your judgment and ability to drive safely. Simply having some alcohol in your system, while dangerous, may not cause the degree of impairment to rise to the level of culpable negligence.
In Mississippi, you can face charges for operating a motor vehicle under the influence if you drive or otherwise operate a vehicle and:
- Are under the influence of alcohol
- Are under the influence of “any other substance which has impaired such person's ability to operate a motor vehicle”
- Have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit, or
- Are under the influence of an illegal controlled substance.
In other words, you can be arrested and charged with DUI if you consume drugs or alcohol and decide to get behind the wheel of a car. The penalties for operating a vehicle under the influence become much more severe when another person is killed or injured. Driving under the influence, as defined in Miss Code § 63-11-30(1), and causing the death of another person is considered Aggravated DUI in Mississippi.
Penalties for DUI Manslaughter
If, after getting behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you cause an accident and another person's death, the consequences can be devastating. Penalties can include:
- A minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 25 years in prison
- Criminal fines and fees
- Suspension or revocation of your driver's license
- Community service
- Probation, and
- Required installation of an ignition interlock device.
Defending DUI Manslaughter in Mississippi
Just because you have been involved in an accident that resulted in another person's death does not automatically mean that you will be charged and convicted of DUI manslaughter. You will have the opportunity to defend yourself against any allegations of criminal misconduct. The best way to defend yourself is by hiring an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney to handle your case. Your attorney will know how to analyze your alleged crime, determine where the state's case against you is weak, and present the arguments that are most likely to minimize the consequences of your arrest.
The best defenses will (1) justify and/or excuse your behavior or (2) attack the validity of evidence presented by the state. Defenses for DUI manslaughter in Mississippi can include:
- You lacked the required intent
- Your conduct was negligent but did not rise to the level of culpable negligence
- You were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash
- Police lacked reasonable suspicion to believe you were under the influence
- You were not operating a motor vehicle at the time of the fatal accident, or
- Evidence was obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights.
Contesting DUI Charges
Any time you are arrested for a DUI-related offense in Mississippi it is important to contest the charges filed against you. You cannot be convicted of a DUI-related crime if the state cannot prove that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If chemical tests are used to prove intoxication it will be important to contest those results. Police often fail to execute these tests properly, fail to document the chain of custody, and/or obtain samples in violation of your Constitutional rights.
If your DUI is based on an officer's belief that you are under the influence, it will be important to attack the foundation of his or her belief. Without evidence to support the fact that you were under the influence, the state will have a difficult time satisfying its burden of proof and securing a conviction.
Experienced Mississippi DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorney
Have you recently been involved in a fatal car accident and are facing charges of DUI Manslaughter or Aggravated DUI? Hiring an attorney who understands Mississippi criminal DUI law and has a track record of successfully handling complex criminal matters will help you secure the best possible outcome in your case. The state will begin to build its case against you the moment you are pulled over, so it is important to contact us as soon as you can. Contact William Wayne Housley, Attorney at Law for immediate legal assistance.