Virginia Maiming Charges – Va Law 18.2-51.4

Virginia law punishes the causation of bodily injuries as a result of driving while intoxicated as a class 6 felony entitled Maiming. Maiming is punished by up to 5 years in prison.

Virginia law 18.2-51.4 states in relevant part: Any person who, as a result of driving while intoxicated in violation of § 18.2-266 or any local ordinance substantially similar thereto in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, unintentionally causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment shall be guilty of [the maiming of another as a result of driving while intoxicated]. This law outlines the culpability requirement as common law criminal negligence, which is judged under an objective standard and, therefore, may be found to exist where the offender either knew or should have known the probable results of his acts.

The Virginia Supreme Court has defined criminal negligence in terms of gross negligence, stating:

Gross negligence is culpable or criminal when accompanied by acts of commission or omission of a wanton or willful nature, showing a reckless or indifferent disregard of the rights of others, under circumstances reasonably calculated to produce injury, or which make it not improbable that injury will be occasioned, and the offender knows or is charged with the knowledge of, the probable result of his acts.

An example of a Virginia case in which the driver was found guilty of maiming is Riley v. Commonwealth. Riley voluntarily ingested an overdose of Ambien in conjunction with other medications, one of which enhanced the effect of the Ambien. He did not have a prescription for the Ambien. His blood test revealed an excessive amount of Ambien in his system indicating that he had ingested at least four times the regularly prescribed dose. Riley admitted knowing that he was supposed to take only one pill of Ambien at a time and avoid driving or operating any type of machinery. He also admitted that by taking the Ambien along with an antihistamine and a pain reliever, he was violating his doctor’s instructions. Riley, in this intoxicated state, nevertheless drove his vehicle and struck the victim and two other vehicles before hitting a tree, all without any apparent braking. The victim suffered serious injuries requiring the amputation of her left leg.


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This article is written by Virginia trial attorney Marina Medvin, an award-winning criminal defense lawyer serving Alexandria, Fairfax, and Arlington, VA. Attorney Medvin represents individuals charged with drunk driving crimes in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Vienna, and Falls Church.

In addition to her Juris Doctorate degree, Ms. Medvin has a Bachelor of Science Honors Degree from Penn State, where she graduated in the Top 10% of her class. Both a legal and a science background are recommended for the defense of Virginia drunk driving cases because of the scientific and chemical analysis of the Blood Alcohol Content.

Ms. Medvin is also a co-author of the Virginia continuing education publication Defense of Serious Traffic Cases in Virginia, in which she teaches the defense of manslaughter and maiming charges to other lawyers. 

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Vehicular Involuntary DUI Manslaughter – Va Law 18.2-36.1(A)

Vehicular involuntary manslaughter, while driving under the influence, is a class 5 felony punished by up to 10 years in prison under Virginia law.

Vehicular involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence requires the prosecutor to prove that the accused was driving under the influence and that a causal connection exists between the driver’s intoxication and the death of another person. Va Code § 18.2-36.1(A).

Under this code section, no proof of criminal negligence is required, but the law requires proof of a causal connection between the driver’s intoxication and the death of another person. Factors relevant to the element of causation include the driver’s level of intoxication, failure to react, smell of alcohol, slurred speech, physical impairment, and expert testimony on the impaired perception that accompanies intoxication. A proximate cause is an act or omission that, in natural and continuous sequence unbroken by a superseding cause, produces a particular event and without which that event would not have occurred. There can be more than one proximate cause.

A driver’s intoxication at the time of an accident by itself does not support the inference that the intoxication was a proximate cause of the crash.


Aggrevated Vehicular Involuntary DWI Manslaughter – Va Law 18.2-36.1(B)

Aggravated involuntary manslaughter, while driving under the influence, is a felony punished by up to 20 years in prison under Virginia law, with a mandatory minimum of 1 year imprisonment requirement.

Virginia’s aggravated involuntary manslaughter law, while driving under the influence, requires the prosecution to prove that the driver was driving under the influence of intoxicants, and unintentionally caused the death of another, and engaged in conduct that was “so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.” Va Code § 18.2-36.1(B).

An example where a driver in Virginia was found guilty of aggravated involuntary manslaughter is the case of Goodman v. Commonwealth. Mr. Goodman was found to have operated his car so recklessly that it crossed a raised median strip and he drove on the wrong side of the road before colliding head-on with a pickup truck which was traveling in the proper lane. In addition, Goodman’s car was proceeding at a high rate of speed and showed no signs of braking or other evasive maneuvers prior to the fatal impact.

A finding of criminal negligence requires acts of commission or omission of a wanton or willful nature, showing a reckless or indifferent disregard of the rights of others, under circumstances reasonably calculated to produce injury and the offender knows or is charged with the knowledge of, the probable results of his acts. The mere happening of an accident, coupled with evidence that the offender had been drinking and that the accident was his fault, does not prove criminal negligence as a matter of law.

In Stevens v. Commonwealth, in which the defendant ran a red light and struck an automobile, killing one of the passengers, the Virginia Court of Appeals explained the proof of aggravated vehicular manslaughter in this way:

“Neither intoxication nor running a red light alone may be sufficient to establish gross, wanton, and culpable conduct. However, the combination of appellant’s extreme intoxication, ignoring traffic signals and running a red light, striking a vehicle without slowing down or braking and asking, “What did I hit?” is sufficient evidence for a jury to find gross, wanton, and culpable conduct.”


Penalty Table for Virginia DUI Maiming & DWI Manslaughter Convictions

CrimeCode SectionCriminal ClassificationMaximum PenaltyMandatory Minimum
Maiming18.2-51.4Felony5 yearsN/A
Involuntary Manslaughter18.2-36.1Felony10 yearsN/A
Aggravated Involuntary Manslaughter18.2-36.1Felony20 years1 year

Va Law § 18.2-51.4. Maiming, etc., of another resulting from driving while intoxicated.

A. Any person who, as a result of driving while intoxicated in violation of § 18.2-266 or any local ordinance substantially similar thereto in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, unintentionally causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. The driver’s license of any person convicted under this section shall be revoked pursuant to subsection B of § 46.2-391.
B. The provisions of Article 2 (§ 18.2-266 et seq.) of Chapter 7 of Title 18.2 shall apply, mutatis mutandis, upon arrest for a violation of this section.

 

Va Law § 18.2-36.1. Certain conduct punishable as involuntary manslaughter.

A. Any person who, as a result of driving under the influence in violation of clause (ii), (iii), or (iv) of § 18.2-266 or any local ordinance substantially similar thereto unintentionally causes the death of another person, shall be guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
B. If, in addition, the conduct of the defendant was so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, he shall be guilty of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one nor more than 20 years, one year of which shall be a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.
C. The provisions of this section shall not preclude prosecution under any other homicide statute. This section shall not preclude any other revocation or suspension required by law. The driver’s license of any person convicted under this section shall be revoked pursuant to subsection B of § 46.2-391.
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