September 28, 2023
Accidents happen. But when someone strikes and hurts – or even kills – another person with a car, it can be more than just an accident.
You find examples of these tragedies almost anywhere. For example, this year a man in Lakewood got behind the wheel while intoxicated. He was charged with vehicular homicide after he hit and killed a cyclist.
Still, when does an incident turn from an accident into something more, like vehicular assault or homicide? Read on to find out.
Vehicular Assault in Colorado: What Is It?
Vehicular assault is committed when a person does both of these in a case:
- The driver of the vehicle drove recklessly; or they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident
- Their driving was the cause of serious injury to the victim
In Colorado, vehicular assault is a crime of strict liability. This means that intention to hurt another person doesn’t need to be present on the part of the defendant. Instead, the only question that must be answered in court is: did they cause serious injury, because they were operating a vehicle recklessly or under the influence?
Under this law, serious bodily injury is defined as an injury that can occur at a later time or at the time of the accident that:
- Includes a risk of death
- Includes risk of permanent disfigurement
- Includes a risk of impairment or protracted loss of the function of any part of the body or part of an organ
- Includes burns or bone fractures
The Penalties of Vehicular Assault In Colorado
If you are convicted of reckless vehicular assault in Colorado, then you face some severe penalties. As a Class 5 felony, vehicular assault can result in imprisonment for as many as three years and fines of as much as $100,000.
A DUI vehicular assault is a Class 4 felony with its own set of penalties. If convicted, you can face as many as six years in prison with a mandatory minimum of three years on parole. You may be responsible for fines of as much as $500,000.
Vehicular Homicide in Colorado: What Is It?
Vehicular homicide is a crime separate from vehicular assault. In order to be convicted of this crime in Colorado, the prosecution must show two things:
- That the driver of the car drove recklessly or while they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- The driving caused the death of another person
Reckless driving is defined as driving that disregards the unjustifiable and substantial risk posed by operating the vehicle in a dangerous way.
Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Colorado
If convicted of vehicular homicide in Colorado due to reckless driving, the penalties for this Class 4 felony include up to six years in prison and fines of as much as $500,000.
If you are found guilty of vehicular homicide due to driving under the influence, then this Class 3 felony is punishable by up to 12 years in prison and fines of as much as $750,000.
Are There Defenses to Vehicular Assault and Vehicular Homicide?
Just as with any crime, a person accused is innocent until proven guilty in court. That means you have the right to mount a defense for yourself with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
The most common defenses used in cases of vehicular assault include:
- The accident that caused the injury was not your fault
- You were not driving the car that was involved in the accident
- You were not driving recklessly
- You were not under the influence while driving
- The victim did not sustain serious injury
- You were not properly advised of your rights during the arrest
- You were not driving the car involved in the accident
- You were not driving in a reckless way during the accident
- You were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the accident
- There were false results from the DUI test taken at the scene
- Your rights were violated by police or you were not advised of your rights at all
The defense that fits a case depends on the circumstances surrounding the incident. These are simply examples of the most common defenses used.
You have rights, even if you’re accused of serious crimes like vehicular assault or vehicular homicide. It’s important you understand those rights and provide yourself a robust defense in court against such serious charges.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.