If you have been involved in a car or truck accident in Alaska and someone else who was involved in the accident was injured or killed, you may face criminal charges. The person injured or killed could be an occupant of another vehicle, a passenger in your own vehicle, a motorcycle rider, cyclist or pedestrian. Charges maybe laid against you if it is considered that it was your reckless driving behavior that led to that person’s injury or death.
There are several criminal charges that could be laid against you. You could be charged with a single charge or a combination of two or more charges.
These charges could be any of the following:
- Reckless / negligent driving;
- Negligent homicide.
Negligent and reckless driving
These two different charges may sound more or less the same, but under Alaska law, they are treated differently with different penalties. Reckless driving is considered a misdemeanor, while negligent driving is an infraction (not a criminal offense). The essential difference is one of degree. The driver charged with reckless driving is considered to have driven in a manner that “creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to a person or to property.” The reckless driver knows that he or she is driving in a manner that is not normal driving behavior and that their driving could cause harm. The dividing line between what is considered reckless and what is considered negligent is not very clear, but the penalties are certainly quite different.
If you are charged with reckless driving, it is a misdemeanor offense. This is a criminal offense which attracts penalties of up to a year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines and ten demerit points. You may also have your driver license suspended. The negligent driver might receive an infraction, have to pay up to $300 in fines and have six demerit points.
Felony charges: vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter
If you have seriously injured someone or killed them, whoever the person was, you face additional charges if you were driving recklessly. You will certainly face a felony charge of assault or manslaughter if you are proven to have been drunk while driving. You will also face a DUI/OUI charge with additional potential penalties. The charge of assault or manslaughter is the same as if you had injured or killed someone with a weapon. Your own vehicle you were driving is treated as a weapon.
These criminal charges are more serious than a charge of reckless driving by itself. Assault may be considered if your reckless driving caused a serious injury. Alaska has four different categories of assault. The most serious, assault in the first degree, could involve very harsh penalties of up to20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. The other assault charges (assault in the second, third and fourth degrees) attract less severe penalties but are still felonies except for assault in the fourth degree, which is a misdemeanor.
Manslaughter involves the death of one of the people involved in the accident considered to be due to your reckless driving. Like assault in the first degree, this is a Class A felony and could lead to the same number of years of incarceration and huge fines.
There is another charge that could be considered if your driving was considered negligent rather than reckless, but you still killed someone. This is negligent homicide and is a Class B felony, with up to10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
Defense against any of these charges
Alaska law can be confusing. There are often gray areas that separate different charges. You are advised not to try and defend yourself if you have been involved in any serious accident and someone has been badly injured or killed and you face any of the charges described above. Remember that you cannot be convicted unless it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that you were guilty of any of these offenses. Prosecutors must have sufficient evidence to convince a jury that you were guilty.
An experienced and skillful criminal defense attorney can use weaknesses in the prosecution case to have your charges dismissed. In Anchorage, contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan as soon as you have been arrested. He will fight to represent you in court. Call Dattan Scott Dattan’s office in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.