A Jacksonville woman was sentenced to 15 years in the Florida state prison after a guilty verdict in a vehicular homicide case. According to police and prosecutors, the woman was driving after taking Ambien, Xanax, cocaine and other drugs. She hit and killed a pedestrian on the Trout River Bridge in Jacksonville before crashing her vehicle. Prosecutors ultimately charged her with vehicular homicide which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
The crime of vehicular homicide in Florida can be committed in various ways. Most people are familiar with the term DUI manslaughter which often involves a person who is impaired by alcohol causing an accident that results in the death of another person. However, according to the Florida statute, the crime of vehicular homicide can be committed by a person who is intoxicated by alcohol, by illegal drugs, by legal prescription drugs or not intoxicated at all.
The crime of vehicular homicide does not necessarily require that a person is intoxicated or impaired, but rather focuses on whether a person is driving recklessly and causes a death. There is no clear definition of reckless driving but it is viewed as driving that is above and beyond more routine negligent driving that is likely to cause an accident with serious injury or death. An example of negligent driving which is not sufficient for a vehicular homicide charge would be speeding or running a red light. An example of reckless driving would be excessive speeding in a residential or school zone or driving while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. In most cases, the reckless driving is caused by alcohol and/or illegal drugs. However, alcohol and/or illegal drugs are not a requirement. There are cases where a person is charged with vehicular homicide without alcohol or illegal drugs being involved. But in those cases, there is usually some very dangerous driving or some other factor that made it likely that the driver would cause a serious accident resulting in death or serious injury.