A new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates it’s been a deadly few years on roads in Jefferson and Shelby Counties.
Our Birmingham DUI lawyers have learned that between 2007 and 2011, there were 537 deadly crashes in the two counties, resulting in 590 deaths.
This represents an uptick in traffic fatalities, spiking sharply toward the end of that time frame. Speed and impairment were two of the leading causes of those crashes, according to investigative records.
We don’t know exactly how many of those fatalities resulted in criminal charges, but we know prosecutors have ratcheted up enforcement efforts when it comes to pushing criminal charges in the wake of a serious or fatal collision. Those can include homicide by vehicle (Alabama Code Section 32-5A-192) or criminally negligent homicide in conjunction with a DUI (Alabama Code Sections 13A-6-4 and32-5A-191).
Both are quite serious. The accused could face additional charges if others were injured, there was significant property damage or if you tried to flee the scene.
These are not cases in which defendants should rely on public defenders. That’s not to say there aren’t some great attorneys in those offices, but you’re taking a gamble. Many of them are fresh out of law school or may not have extensive experience in the technical area of DUI law in Alabama. Our experience is backed by a proven track record of success. This is what you need in these cases because the reality is, if you are convicted on one of these charges, you absolutely WILL go to jail, potentially for a period of years.
Homicide by vehicle holds that if you unlawfully and unintentionally cause the death of another person while engaged in a violation of any state law, municipal ordinance or traffic regulation, you may be convicted, fined up to $2,000 and sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Criminally negligent homicide, meanwhile, is charged if you caused the death of another person due to criminal negligence. Normally, this would be a Class A misdemeanor. However, in DUI cases, it’s boosted to a Class C felony, which carries a penalty of between 2 and 20 years behind bars.
In addition the more than 500 fatal crashes in Jefferson and Shelby, there were also 27,000 non-fatal crashes – just in 2011 alone.
Drunk drivers accounted for about 20 percent of all crashes, according to authorities.
It’s worth noting that a person who causes a fatal accident by speeding alone might also be charged with homicide by vehicle.
In line with national figures, more fatal crashes occurred on the weekends and between midnight and 4 a.m. than during any other times. In Alabama, the majority of deadly wrecks were in rural areas.
Alabama tends to rank higher than other states with regard to traffic fatalities. Teen driver fatalities, for example, climbed by 300 percent in the first sic months of last year compared to the same time frame in 2011.