Oklahoma’s Negligent (Vehicular) Homicide Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives recklessly and kills another person will likely face negligent homicide charges.

In Oklahoma, a motorist can be charged with “negligent homicide” (also called “vehicular homicide”) for causing the death of another person while driving in “reckless disregard of the safety of others.” 

Reckless disregard. Basically, a person acts with reckless disregard for the safety of others by neglecting to do something a reasonably careful person would do or failing to exercise the degree of caution that a prudent person would under like circumstances.

Causation. A driver can be convicted of negligent homicide only if there’s proof that the reckless driving was a legal cause of the death. It’s not enough to merely show the defendant drove recklessly and someone died—there needs to be a direct link between the defendant’s driving and the death.

Timing of the death. To be guilty of negligent homicide, the victim doesn’t have to die right away. Oklahoma’s negligent homicide law applies if the victim dies within a year of the accident.

(Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 47, § 11-903 (2017).)

Negligent Homicide Penalties

Negligent homicide is a misdemeanor in Oklahoma. Convicted motorists face up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines. The fine is doubled if the driver has been convicted of another traffic violation in the three years prior to the negligent homicide offense. All motorists convicted of negligent homicide must complete a driver improvement or defensive driving class. And the conviction also results in a one-year license suspension.

(Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 47, §§ 6-205, 11-903 (2017).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney

A negligent homicide conviction comes with serious consequences. If you’ve been arrested for negligent homicide—or any other crime—get in contact with a criminal defense attorney right away. The facts of every case are different. An experienced defense attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best plan of action.

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