You were likely relieved to learn that your teen or young adult child survived a car accident. However, if someone else died in the crash, your son or daughter could face a criminal charge of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in North Carolina. Although you cannot undo the tragic situation, your family member may have defense options.
Definition of the crime
The state views causing the unintentional death of another person while driving, in the absence of drug or alcohol impairment, as a Class A1 misdemeanor. The criminal charge arises from the violation of a state law or local ordinance pertaining to operating a vehicle. To convict someone for misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, the alleged violation of the law must clearly connect with the resulting death.
Opportunities for defending someone from this criminal charge might emerge when investigating the traffic accident. Potentially, evidence might not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person actually violated the law. Even if the violation occurred, then evidence would have to show that it was the proximate cause of the death.
Penalties for misdemeanor death by motor vehicle
State criminal law authorizes both imprisonment and fines for this offense. A conviction could impose a substantial fine and up to 150 days in jail.
Guidance during criminal prosecution
You may have little or no experience interacting with the criminal justice system. Before engaging with a criminal court, you or your family member may benefit from understanding your rights and legal options. The jobs of the judge and prosecutor do not include educating you about what to do; their focus is on processing cases and not your future. Making decisions in court without legal advice could cause you to miss opportunities to defend yourself or your child from conviction, so be sure to consult an attorney throughout the process.