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Can a Drunk Driver Who Causes a Fatal Crash Face Murder Charges?

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Can a Drunk Driver Who Causes a Fatal Crash Face Murder Charges?


Let’s say Reginald went out one night and had a few drinks. Unfortunately, although his normal faculties were impaired, he decided to get behind the wheel and drive home. During the trip, he ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle crossing the intersection. Sadly, the other driver was killed.

After reviewing Reginald’s situation, the prosecutor decided to charge him with second-degree murder. But can such charges stick? That’s the question currently being posed in Nevada because of a growing trend with prosecutors filing murder charges against drunk drivers who cause fatal car accidents.

The Controversy Behind Filing Murder Charges

In Clark County, where murder charges have been filed against 7 drivers since 2017, the District Attorney stated that this action is being taken to show the seriousness of the offense. However, his decision has been met with controversy.

Filing murder charges in DUI-related accidents resulting in death may undermine the legislative system. Policymakers enact laws that define prohibited behaviors and penalties for engaging in such conduct. When prosecutors take it upon themselves to decide how to punish certain acts, in essence, they are determining the laws.

In Nevada, a statute already exists concerning how to punish drunk drivers who cause accidents that result in substantial bodily harm or death. That law is separate from the second-degree murder statute that the Clark County D.A. wants to pursue in such cases.

Under NRS 484C.430, if a person is driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and they cause a fatal accident, they could be found guilty of a category B felony.

The conviction penalties for a violation of NRS 484C.430 include a:

  1. Prison sentence between 2 and 20 years
  2. Fine between $2,000 and $5,000

In Nevada, second-degree murder is defined as engaging in reckless behavior that results in the unintentional killing of another. If a person is convicted of this offense, which is a category A felony, they could be punished by up to life in prison.

Those opposed to the D.A.’s actions say that the punishments for drunk driving fatalities are already severe enough. The offense doesn’t warrant filing second-degree murder charges, and doing so is prohibited by law.

The D.A. stated that the drunk drivers charged with second-degree murder engaged in reckless behavior while behind the wheel, which fits the definition of the offense.

After a motion was filed to stop such practices, the Nevada Supreme Court, which denied the request, stated that the issue raises interesting questions about how laws are interpreted. The Clark County D.A. said that he will continue to pursue fatal drunk driving crashes as murder cases until the Supreme Court tells him he can’t.

Contact the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Stover for Legal Representation

If you were charged with a DUI-related offense in Reno, we’re ready to help you fight charges. We will examine relevant statutes and case law to ensure your rights are protected.

Speak with our skilled attorney during a free consultation by calling us at (775) 502-1575 or contacting us online.

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