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When a Car Is a Weapon: Aggravated Vehicular Homicide and Similar Charges

A Dublin, Ohio man named Matthew Cordle gained national attention when he made a YouTube video in which he admitted causing the death of another man while driving drunk. Cordle knew he was prone to blackouts after drinking, but he took the wheel with a blood alcohol level double the state limit. He pled guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and is facing an eight-year prison sentence.

In Ohio, if your driving results in the death of another person, the prosecution has three options for charging you:

  • Felony aggravated vehicular homicide
  • Misdemeanor vehicular homicide
  • Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter

Aggravated vehicular homicide carries serious felony consequences

Aggravated vehicular homicide is the most serious of the three vehicular charges. You may be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide if:

  • You killed another person while you were legally intoxicated.
  • You killed another person while driving recklessly, which can include speeding.

Depending on your past driving record, aggravated vehicular homicide is a first- or second-degree felony. If drunk driving was a factor, a judge does not have the discretion to impose probation, but is required to sentence you to prison time.

Vehicular homicide can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor

If you caused the death of another person while driving negligently, you may be charged with vehicular homicide. This is a first-degree misdemeanor. If you were driving on a suspended license or with no valid license at all, you are looking at a fourth-degree felony conviction with possible prison time rather than simply a misdemeanor.

Vehicular manslaughter: when violating a traffic ordinance results in death

If you caused the death of another person because you violated a traffic ordinance, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Violation of a traffic ordinance is a minor misdemeanor, unlike a more serious traffic violation like speeding. Vehicular manslaughter is a second-degree misdemeanor, but if you were driving on a suspended license or with no valid license at all, prosecutors can charge you with a first-degree misdemeanor.

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