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Vehicular Manslaughter

The general frequency and severity of fatal accidents in the State of Iowa has gone down in recent years. However, the issue of irresponsible or reckless behavior resulting in vehicle-related deaths remains a serious issue in the eyes of the public. As a result, Iowa has strict traffic offense laws.

Vehicular Manslaughter (VM), referred to as “Vehicular Homicide” in the state legal code, is the accidental death of one or more individuals caused by operating a vehicle while impaired (DUI) or in a reckless manner. It is one of the most, if not the most, Serious Traffic Offense on the books in Iowa. Depending on the specific circumstances, the potential penalties can range from minimal to severe.

While each case possesses distinguishing factors, the established law follows a set of guidelines to determine what, if any, crime has been committed. Even if you’re certain of your innocence, you may require an experienced attorney to defend your rights. Without quality legal assistance, you could be stacked against serious consequences including expensive fines and prison time.

Attorney for Vehicular Manslaughter in Des Moines

Sometimes it takes only a handful of seconds to turn what was previously a good time into a gut-wrenching, life-changing event. Once it has happened, it can feel like your side of the story matters at all.

At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., we want you to know that it does matter. No matter what the circumstances surrounding your case are, you are entitled to a voice and a vigorous defense. No case is too complex or too damning for our knowledgeable and experienced defense attorneys to take on. From the very beginning to the very end, we at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. will advocate for you and your future with every ounce of strength and determination we can muster.

Depending on what the case calls for, our legal team will work tirelessly to dispute the state’s case. Utilizing our in-depth understanding of the state’s investigatory procedures, we can assess the arguments put forth and look for inconsistencies or inaccuracies.

Regardless of what the situation makes you feel, there is hope! If you have been charged with Vehicular Manslaughter in Des Moines or surrounding cities such as West Des Moines, Ankeny, or Altoona, contact us at (515) 279-9700 for a free consultation.

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Overview of Vehicular Manslaughter Laws

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What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?

According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), nearly 50% of all fatal Iowa car accidents were alcohol-related in 2017. All in all, a total of 171 deaths occurred as a result of alcohol-related crashes. In 2018, there were approximately 1,100 accidents related to phone usage in Iowa.

There are two kinds of Vehicular Manslaughter: impaired VM and reckless VM. An impaired vehicular manslaughter charge implies that the accused individual was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and that inebriation caused them to accidentally strike and kill one or more persons.

Reckless vehicular manslaughter implies that the accused individual struck and killed one or more persons while driving because of their “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of others, This charge includes several different types of reckless behavior such as texting, changing the radio, eating, talking to passengers or using the phone.

Both alcohol or drug-based impairment and texting while driving are the leading causes behind most vehicular manslaughter cases. They are, however, not the only ones. Because the Iowa State Code defines Vehicular Homicide as the accidental death of one or more persons caused by impaired or reckless driving, there are several distinct ways to arrive at this charge.

Consider these examples:

  • During an attempt to elude police, you strike a pedestrian or another vehicle, causing the death of one or more persons;
  • During an illegal race, you strike a pedestrian or another vehicle resulting in the death of one or more persons; or
  • During the process of driving, you willingly and deliberately disregard the safety of others in such a way as to result in the death of one or more persons.

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Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter

Several factors can alter the standard penalties set out in the Iowa State Code. For one, if after the commission of Vehicular Manslaughter, one flees the scene, the convicted individual must serve at minimum 70% of their sentence. The State of Iowa requires all drivers involved in an accident that results in serious injury or death to stop immediately and remain at the scene, as per Sec. 321.261.


    Impaired VM           Class B               X          25 Years
      Texting VM           Class C               X          10 Years
      Eluding VM           Class C               X          10 Years
        Drag VM           Class D               X            5 Years


*All of these crimes carry an enhancement that requires 70% of the sentence served if the convicted individual fled the scene of the crime.

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Potential Defenses

Depending on the circumstances of your case, different defenses can be used in court. If the vehicular manslaughter charge was brought on by an accusation of an OWI, the state is obligated to prove that the accident was the direct result of your impairment. A potential defense centers around providing evidence that others involved in the accident were at fault.

In the case of an OWI-related vehicular manslaughter case, it is also important for the defense to take every necessary precaution about the state’s evidence. A blood draw will be conducted, and a breathalyzer might be utilized if the accused agreed to it. These pieces of state evidence will make up the bulk of their argument that you were impaired, and that your impairment caused the accident.

Qualified defense attorneys will work to analyze the methods that were used to collect the state’s evidence. They will determine if any impropriety occurred, or if there is any other reason to have the evidence suppressed.

For any kind of vehicular manslaughter charge, there must be evidence supporting the claim that negligence resulted in the accident. Defense attorneys can fight against this notion by providing reasonable doubt to the state’s evidence claims.

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Additional Resources

Iowa Criminal Statutes Summary Chart 2018 – This PDF contains the most up-to-date sentencing guidelines for all crimes in the State of Iowa. Using this information, you can gain an understanding of the exact punishments for the different kinds of Vehicular Manslaughter.

Iowa Criminal Law Overview – This PDF contains valuable information about the process by which enhancements are applied to various crimes in Iowa, including Vehicular Manslaughter.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Vehicular Homicide Page – This page on the MADD website provides detailed information about the laws regarding vehicular manslaughter in each state.

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Attorney for Vehicular Manslaughter in Polk County, IA

Vehicular Manslaughter charges are not only serious because of the potential prison sentences. Oftentimes, the personal and professional reputation of an individual convicted of this crime never fully recovers. Individuals that possess CDLs or other relevant professional licenses could find themselves permanently barred from their work. Both teaching and healthcare professionals could find themselves without the ability to work in the field they trained and studied to be in.

There is a lot at stake for people accused of Vehicular Manslaughter, but one does not have to be hopeless in despair. Our attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. will take the time to hear your side of the story and will work ceaselessly to tailor, craft, and present the kind of defense that your case needs. If you have been accused of Vehicular Manslaughter in Polk County, Dallas County, Jasper County, Marshall County, Boone County, or any other surrounding counties, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today at (515) 279-9700

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