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DUI manslaughter: Ordinary negligence versus gross negligence

Imagine you were driving home from a party on a Saturday evening and you get into a catastrophic car accident. The driver of the other vehicle died, and after police arrived, they arrested you and accused you of DUI manslaughter with gross negligence.

The DUI manslaughter charges came as a surprise to you because you hadn't drunk any alcohol that night. Furthermore, you're confused about what the term "gross negligence" means and how it applies to your criminal charges.

What are ordinary negligence and gross negligence?

DUI manslaughter charges commonly come about after an allegedly drunk driver causes a fatal car accident. In these cases, the driver never wanted to cause an accident; nevertheless, the accident happened and it was caused by the intoxicated state of the driver.

In the case of a DUI manslaughter charge with ordinary negligence, police have probably accused the defendant of violating a traffic law, but the level of the violation is not extreme. For example, maybe the drunk driver was being distracted by his or her cellphone or radio, and this contributed to the accident.

In the case of a DUI manslaughter charge with gross negligence, the police have probably accused the defendant of violating the law and committing extreme recklessness -- like being drunk and driving along a sidewalk, or being drunk and racing friends on the highway.

The penalties associated with a DUI manslaughter charge with gross negligence will be much more severe than those associated with an ordinary negligence charge. In fact, a conviction of gross negligence will probably involve the defendant spending many more years behind bars.

Getting the severity of your charges reduced to ordinary negligence

A defense tactic used by many accused of gross negligence is to advocate in court to have your charges dropped to ordinary negligence. If a DUI manslaughter conviction is likely, for example, a defendant might choose to enter into a plea bargain in exchange for having the charge reduced from gross negligence to ordinary negligence.

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