Vehicular assault is a crime that involves using a vehicle to hurt or threaten another person. This crime is often accompanied by other serious traffic offenses. For example, if a driver operates a vehicle recklessly at high speed and hurts a pedestrian or other driver, he could be charged with both vehicular assault and reckless driving. It also is common for driving under the influence and driving without a license to be charged with this crime. Many state laws address vehicular assault specifically involving DUI or DWI. But you do not need to have been under the influence to be charged with this crime in most states.
Not all states have specific laws addressing vehicular assault. In some of them, whether a person was injured or not during the offense is a factor to determine how much punishment the person should receive. In such a situation, vehicular assault may be considered an aggravating factor and not a separate crime. The victim may be able to sue the driver in a personal injury suit for the damages and injuries suffered from the driver’s action, such as medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages.
In other states, the crime of vehicular assault can be punished as a specific criminal offense. The injuries incurred must be serious for vehicular assault to be charged. States that have statutes that criminalized this offense are New York, Colorado and Oregon, and others. In most of these states, someone who gets drunk and drives after drinking excessively could be charged with DUI, while a person who drinks just as much and injures someone would be charged with vehicular assault as well.
Also note that causing injury to another person is different under state criminal laws than causing the death of another person. If the vehicular assault results in someone’s death, vehicular homicide would be the charge, not vehicular assault.
Penalties for Vehicular Assault
States have different laws about whether vehicular assault is a felony or misdemeanor. Some refer to vehicular assault in first, second or third degree. In some states, if the assault leads to serious bodily harm, or is due to drunk driving, the driver can be charged with a felony. This can lead to years in prison and heavy fines. If the consequences of the behavior are not as severe, the charge could be a misdemeanor. For most cases though, a vehicular assault charge results in jail time.
A driver who commits this crime is considered to be a threat to the safety of pedestrians and other drivers. So it is common for the convicted to lose their driver’s license for a certain period. The driver also may have to take remedial driving classes to get their license back.
Some states are now charging vehicular assault when a distracted driver injures another person in a car accident. Such incidents are becoming more common as more people are distracted by their cell phones behind the wheel.
Below are some examples of punishments for vehicular assault in various states:
Vehicular assault in the second degree in New York state law is defined as causing serious physical injury to another while committing a DUI. It is a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison, five years probation and a fine up to $5000.
Vehicular assault in Washington state can be charged in two ways. The most serious is a vehicular assault with a DWI. This means you caused serious harm to another person and also were legally intoxicated. If you have no criminal or DUI history, you will usually receive three to nine months in jail. If you do have a previous record, you can receive a jail sentence of over a year. But if the victim has been severely injured, the court may opt to impose up to a 10 year prison sentence.
The crime of vehicular assault is defined in Colorado Revised Statute 18-3-205. The law states it is a felony for a driver to operate a vehicular under the influence of alcohol and injure another person. Below are the definitions and sentences for vehicular assault in this state:
- Class 4 felony: Serious bodily injury occurred when you drove a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Two to six years in prison, with 12 years possible with aggravating circumstances.
- Class 5 felony: Drove in a reckless manner and caused serious bodily injury. One to three years in prison, with six years possible in aggravating circumstances.
Vehicular assault is always a felony in Colorado.
Vehicular assault in Texas is often charged as aggravated assault, which is intentionally and recklessly causing serious injury to another with a deadly weapon, such as a vehicle. This is generally a second degree felony with a possible punishment of two to 20 years in prison with a $10,000 fine.
If you are intoxicated and seriously injure someone with your vehicle, you can be charged with intoxication assault. This can be punished by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Aggravated vehicular assault is a third degree felony in Ohio. It carries at least a one year prison sentence, with a range typically between one and five years. The judge also must suspend your driver’s license for at least a year and up to five years. However, vehicular assault will be upgraded to a second degree felony in these cases:
- You were driving under a suspended license at the time of the crime
- You were convicted previously for aggravated vehicular assault or vehicular assault
- You were previously convicted of homicide, manslaughter or assault
- You were previously convicted of at least three DUIs
- You were previously convicted to a second or subsequent felony DWI
As in many states for aggravated vehicular assault, the Ohio state prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes serious harm to another person.
Defenses to Vehicular Assault
In some cases, the arresting officer may not have used proper procedures, or there could be discrepancies in the evidence against you. While getting a vehicular assault charge dismissed is a tall order, it is possible for a skilled attorney to get the charge down to a misdemeanor in some situations.
Vehicular Assault Cases
- Woman in Washington Charged With Vehicular Assault – A woman from Gig Harbor, Washington was charged with vehicular assault last week, according to local police. She rear ended another vehicle and caused minor injuries. She was allegedly driving distracted.
- Missouri Woman Charged with Vehicular Assault and Drug Charges – A woman from Aurora, Missouri has been accused of an assault on law enforcement during a high speed chase. She also was charged with two counts of possessing a controlled substance.
- 23 Year Old Male in Ohio Facing Vehicular Assault Charges – A man from Elyria, Ohio has been charged with vehicular assault after he allegedly crashed a stolen car and fled on foot. He faces two counts of vehicular assault and a single count of leaving the scene of a crash. He also was charged with obstructing police business and receiving stolen property.
- Vehicular Assault Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.justia.com/criminal/offenses/traffic-offenses/vehicular-assault/