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What is the punishment for killing someone while driving under the influence?

By William J. Price

Impaired driving kills and injures thousands of innocent people across the country each year. According to the CDC, 29 people die in crashes involving a drunk driver each day – one death every 50 minutes.

Each of these deaths is an avoidable tragedy, and a recent crash that made headlines in Cleveland is no exception. In September, Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith lost his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, in an incident on I-90 West. Cordero had given birth to the couple’s daughter just weeks ago.

While the circumstances of the crash are still under investigation, the driver who killed Cordero admitted to law enforcement that she had been drinking. As loved ones, friends, and the city of Cleveland mourn this shocking loss, many are left wondering how the driver will be held accountable for the pain she has caused.

If you have been in an accident caused by a drunk driver, contact our Cleveland car accident lawyers today for a free consultation.

What is the punishment for killing someone while driving under the influence?

Ohio Revised Code 2903.06 lays out the three types of charges that could be brought when a person operating a vehicle kills another person.

Aggravated vehicular homicide is the term used to describe a situation where a person operating a motor vehicle causes the death of another person in a way that involves drugs, alcohol, construction zones, and/or reckless operation. The penalty for this crime varies depending on how the crime occurred.

The punishment is determined based on many factors:

Aggravating factors, which could increase the severity of the punishment, include things like:

  • Similar prior convictions
  • Circumstances of the crash (Ex: Was the driver drinking all day and then decided to drive home?)
  • Vulnerability of the victim (Was the victim a child?)

Mitigating factors, which may result in more lenient punishments, include things like:

  • Lack of a criminal record
  • Mental illness
  • Circumstances of the crash

These two categories of factors are considered by the prosecutor and judge when deciding whether they will seek or deliver the maximum sentence.

The victim’s family must take an active role in communicating with the court system in these situations. First, the victim’s family must have a solid understanding of all sections of Ohio Revised Code 2930 – the Ohio Victim’s Rights Laws. This statute gives a complete overview of what a victim’s family can and cannot do in the process of bringing the person who killed their loved one to justice.

Once familiar with the steps outlined in ORC 2930, the victim’s representative must contact the prosecutor who is handling the case. This person will seek the punishment against the person who took the victim’s life.

The victim’s representative should also seek out the victim’s advocate. Every court has a victim’s advocate who works closely with the victim’s representative, explaining the system, its workings, and how the judges and prosecutors make their decisions. These components are all critical to the outcome of the case.

The prosecutor and the victim’s advocate will often also discuss options for seeking restitution.  Restitution deals with financial compensation for the loss and suffering experienced by the victim’s family. They will typically recommend seeking a civil lawyer to file a wrongful death suit, allowing the family to seek restitution from the defendant’s insurance carrier.

About Elk & Elk Attorney William J. Price

William J. Price focuses his practice on personal injury litigation for people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, defective products, negligence in construction sites, and trucking and auto accidents. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO, and is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.