Vehicular Homicide / Assault is upgraded to a felony status if a defendant’s actions or record matches certain criteria in the Ohio Revised Code. On average, most Aggravated Vehicular Homicide / Assault cases are a result of either DUI or reckless driving. If a motorist is merely negligent, but not DUI or reckless, and the accident leads to serious injury or death, most cases will be treated as a misdemeanor. There is no mandatory prison or jail associated with those types of cases.
However, what happens if a motorist is simply going above the posted speed limit and crashes into another vehicle causing death or serious injury? Is that reckless? Is that a felony?
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Recently, the 12th District Court of Appeals in Ohio (an appeal from Brown County, Ohio) affirmed a conviction that a professional truck driver who was going 60 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone was guilty of being “reckless” when his rig crashed into another vehicle killing the rear seat passenger and seriously injuring the two front seat passengers. State v. Taylor (8-16-10). His defense that he was merely negligent (thus guilty of a misdemeanor) didn’t fly.
This case illustrates the fluidity of accident death cases in Ohio and all across America. Depending upon the hue and cry, some accident death cases are being prosecuted as higher level felonies, even murder.