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When a Drunk Driving Crash Ends in Death

By Peters & Nolan, LLC on August 5, 2019

It’s easy enough to explain the difference between vehicular assault and vehicular homicide in Colorado: to be charged with vehicular homicide, someone must have died. But in other respects, the two crimes are similar. Both are almost always charged in relation to driving under the influence or while impaired by alcohol, or driving under the influence of drugs (DUID).

Both of these charges are now facing a teenager from Carbondale, who was behind the wheel on Garfield County Road 102 at around midnight on May 3rd and lost control of the vehicle. It collided with a large rock, rolled, and two passengers who were not wearing seatbelts at the time were ejected. One died, the other was taken to Valley View Hospital with critical injuries. Two people in the car wearing seatbelts, including the driver, suffered only minor injuries. Another teen in the car suffered serious injuries.

At the time, the 18-year-old driver was booked into Garfield County Jail under a litany of charges in addition to vehicular assault and vehicular homicide: reckless driving, third-degree assault, illegal possession or consumption of alcohol by an underage person, drug possession, and drunk driving. He made a pretrial appearance in late June, but his case has been continued to September to “give Colorado State Patrol, the lead investigating agency, more time to file reports on the crash,” according to PostIndependent.

What evidence will they need? Let’s look at Colorado Revised Statutes for the definition of these crimes.

C.R.S. § 18-3-106: Vehicular Homicide

(1)(a) If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle in a reckless manner, and such conduct is the proximate cause of the death of another, such person commits vehicular homicide.

(b)(I) If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, and such conduct is the proximate cause of the death of another, such person commits vehicular homicide. This is a strict liability crime.

Vehicular homicide under (a) is a class 4 felony—punishable by up to six years in state prison and $500,000 in fines. Under (b), it is a class 3 felony—punishable by up to 12 years in state prison and $750,000 in fines. This young man is looking at the second version of the charge, and faces severe penalties if he’s convicted.

C.R.S. § 18-3-205: Vehicular Assault

(1)(a) If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle in a reckless manner, and this conduct is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another, such person commits vehicular assault.

(b)(I) If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, and this conduct is the proximate cause of a serious bodily injury to another, such person commits vehicular assault. This is a strict liability crime.

We should mention that “serious bodily injury” may be just broken bones. Subsection (a) above is a class 5 felony; (b) is a class 4 felony. Again, the driver is looking at definition (b), and thus faces an additional sentence of up to 12 years in state prison if he is convicted of this charge along with the vehicular homicide charge. And that doesn’t take into account the other offenses lined up against him.

You’re only young once, and all of us remember making really stupid mistakes back when we were in high school. But Peters & Nolan, LLC, believes that harsh punishment by the state isn’t always the answer. We defend many underage DUI drivers, because we know getting them real help is a better solution for them, their families, and—we hope—society as a whole.

If you want to speak to Grand Junction DUI defense lawyers who have handled not just hundreds, but thousands of cases successfully, please call our office at (970) 243-4357.

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Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.

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