* This article is not intended as advice for your specific matter. Rather, it is a general article about Nevada law. If you have questions about your particular case, please call Mueller and Associates immediately at (702) 382-1200. This information is valid as of July 24, 2017.
What is Vehicular Manslaughter under NRS 484B.657?
In Nevada, a person that causes the death of another person through negligent driving can be convicted of a misdemeanor under NRS 484B.657(1). Negligent driving can be any number of things including speeding, texting and driving, not fully paying attention while driving, breaking any law while driving or generally failing to use the appropriate amount of care while driving. The penalties for vehicular manslaughter includes up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 in addition to a license suspension by the DMV.
Defenses to this accusation are basically two-fold – a) you weren’t driving or the State cannot prove you were driving, and b) you weren’t driving in a negligent manner or the State cannot prove you were driving negligently. Remember, the State of Nevada bears the burden of proof on each element, so you do not need to prove that you weren’t driving or that you weren’t driving negligently, the State needs to prove that you WERE driving and driving negligently.
However, the State does not need to prove that you had any criminal intent or that you intended to injure someone, only that you were driving negligently. See Cornella v. Churchill Cnty., 377 P.3d 97, 132 Nev. Adv. Rep. 58 (Nev. 2016). In that case, the defendant drove through an intersection controlled by a four-way stop sign and killed a 12 year old riding her bicycle. She was convicted but challenged her conviction because of NRS 484B.657 only required simple negligence rather than the higher criminal negligence usually required to secure a conviction.
The Nevada Supreme Court rejected that argument and held that despite the requirement in NRS 193.190 requiring that “every crime or public offense there must exist a union, or joint operation of act and intention, or criminal negligence,” some crimes are punishable in the absence of criminal intent or culpability where they are “public welfare” offenses. Public welfare offenses and only require ordinary negligence where 1) it is not rooted in common law, 2) involves a small penalty, 3) does not tarnish the character of the offender, and 4) is of a type that a person could reasonably be expected to abide by.
Are you or a loved one charged with vehicular manslaughter? Crafting a good defense is essential to a fair trial and outcome. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney and call Mueller Hinds & Associates for a free consultation.