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How Are Drunk Drivers Penalized for Fatal Accidents?

Drunk DriversEach year, over 10,000 people die in drunk driving accidents in the United States. A drunk driver who causes the death of one or more people typically faces serious consequences, which vary based on state laws and accident specifics. Here is a general overview of fatality statistics and possible penalties for drunk drivers who cause a fatal accident in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Drunk Driving Causes Deadly Accidents in Massachusetts and New Hampshire

Around 137 people die in vehicular accidents involving a drunk driver in Massachusetts every year. In New Hampshire, approximately 40 people die in these accidents annually. Both states have lower rates of fatal crashes involving alcohol when compared to the national average.

Nationwide, 3.3 people per 100,000 people die at the hands of drunk drivers. New Hampshire’s rate is lower – 2.4 per 100,000 people. In Massachusetts, 1.8 per 100,000 people are victims of drunk driving fatalities.

Surveys report that 1.9% of nationwide respondents say that they have driven while under the influence of alcohol in the last month. The rate is slightly lower at 1.8% in New Hampshire, and surprisingly higher at 2.2% in Massachusetts.

Vehicular Homicide and DUI Manslaughter Penalties in MA

Vehicular homicide can be a misdemeanor or a felony in Massachusetts. With a misdemeanor charge, drunk drivers can face up to 30 days in jail or 2.5 years in prison. They may have to pay fines of $300 to $3000.

When drugs or alcohol are involved, the criminal charge is often a felony. Drivers face a minimum of one year in the house of corrections, up to 15 years in state prison, and fines up to $5,000. Manslaughter by motor vehicle leads to a minimum 5-year jail sentence or up to 20 years in prison, and as much as $25,000 in fines. License revocation for 15 years is another consequence.

Fatality Penalties for Drunk Drivers in NH

In New Hampshire, drunk drivers who cause fatalities may be charged with homicide, manslaughter, vehicular assault, or murder. The penalties vary based on the charge and other factors related to the case.

If convicted of negligent homicide, drivers may face up to seven years in prison and up to $4,000 in fines. They may lose their licenses for life. Manslaughter charges can lead to up to 30 years in prison and permanent license revocation. If a fatal drunk driving accident leads to a second-degree murder charge in New Hampshire, the driver may face life in prison.

Establishing Prohibited Acts and Mental States

When trying to establish that someone is guilty of a crime, drunk driving wrongful death lawyers generally need to establish that the accused committed a prohibited act and had a particular mental state while performing that act.

With deadly drunk driving accidents, the prohibited act is driving while under the influence of alcohol. The mental state refers to the driver’s reasons for taking that action or decisions that indicate negligence or intent. In some cases, state laws don’t require attorneys to establish that the drunk driver had any specific mental state.

Some states have strict liability DUI manslaughter laws. In these cases, drivers automatically assume liability for injuries or deaths that occur while they operate a vehicle under the influence.

If strict liability laws are not in place, prosecution attorneys must establish that the driver was grossly negligent or acted recklessly in extreme disregard for human life.

To establish intent, lawyers often point to some of the following issues:

  • The drunk driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels
  • How the drunk driver was operating their vehicle
  • Whether or not someone told the driver not to operate a vehicle

The penalties detailed above are criminal. Drunk drivers may also be civilly liable for damages related to these accidents. Even if a driver is not charged with a crime, they can still be held liable in civil court through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Get Help with Your Drunk Driving Wrongful Death Case

If you have lost a loved one to an accident caused by a motorist who was under the influence, contact us at Mazow | McCullough, PC. We can start with a no-cost case evaluation and help you decide if you want to move forward with a lawsuit.

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