Car accidents are commonplace and part of the everyday risks of driving. Unfortunately, sometimes these accidents result in a loss of life. Depending on your driving conduct at the time of the accident, you could be looking at a wide range of criminal consequences. Of these consequences, one of the most serious charges is Criminal Vehicular Homicide.
Under Minnesota Statute § 609.2112, an individual can be sentenced up to ten years of imprisonment if the individual causes the death of another (not constituting murder or manslaughter). However, you will be only charged with Criminal Vehicular Homicide if the death was a result of operating a motor vehicle:
- In a grossly negligent manner;
- In a negligent manner under the influence of:
- Controlled substance; or
- Combination of these elements;
- While having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more;
- While having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, as measured within two hours of the time of driving;
- In a negligent manner while under the influence of an intoxicating substance and the person knows or has reason to know the substance may cause impairment;
- In a negligent manner while any amount of a Schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance is present in the person’s body;
- Where the driver who caused the collision leaves the scene of an accident;
- Where the driver had knowledge of a previous warning the motor vehicle was defectively maintained, and the defect caused the death.
Some of the different subdivisions of the statute are somewhat straight forward and others require more explanation. For example, what does a “grossly negligent manner” mean? And when does conduct rise from ordinary negligence to gross negligence? The Minnesota Supreme Court has articulated the difference and stated, “gross negligence is substantially and appreciably higher in magnitude than ordinary negligence.” State v. Bolsinger, 21 N.W.1d 480, 485 (Minn. 1946).
Unfortunately, no clearer definitions exist under Minnesota law. Therefore, a case focused on whether conduct rose to the level of “gross negligence” will be fact intensive and will require something more than mere ordinary negligence.