Under NRS 484B.657, the crime of vehicular manslaughter in Nevada occurs when a motorist “proximately causes the death of another person through an act or omission that constitutes simple negligence.” This offense is generally treated as a misdemeanor, unless the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving recklessly.
“Simple negligence” is failing to act as a reasonable driver. It does not require maliciousness or intention to harm. Just a momentary lapse in judgment that ends in tragedy.
Consequently, NRS 484B.657 carries relatively lax punishments. Sometimes judges order just a fine and no jail.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers answer frequently-asked-questions about vehicular manslaughter laws:
- 1. What are examples of vehicular manslaughter?
- 2. What are the penalties?
- 3. What are the defenses?
- 4. Can the record get sealed?
- 5. What are the immigration consequences?
- 6. Is vehicular homicide different?
1. What are examples of vehicular manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter results from the driver‘s negligence.1 Five examples of negligent behavior that may turn deadly are:
- Daydreaming and forgetting to stop at a red light or stop sign;
- Speeding slightly over the limit;
- Driving without realizing the motor vehicle’s taillights are broken;
- Driving while eating; or
- Breaking too fast
Most of the time, these negligent behaviors do not cause accidents. Drivers have close calls all the time with no consequences. But when a slip-up causes a fatal car wreck or pedestrian knockdown, the driver may face vehicular manslaughter charges.
1.1. Fatal reckless driving
Vehicular manslaughter is a less serious charge than reckless driving causing death (NRS 484B.653). Recklessness is a willful disregard of others’ safety. An example would be going twice the speed limit or plowing through a school zone.
Reckless driving is more blameworthy than negligent driving. That is why fatal reckless driving is prosecuted as a felony.2 Defense attorneys always try to get fatal reckless driving charges reduced to vehicular manslaughter.
2. What are the penalties?
Vehicular manslaughter is only a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment includes:
- Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines3
The sentence may be doubled if the accident occurred in a work zone.4
Depending on the case, the defendant may be able to avoid jail.
2.1. Driver’s license consequences
An NRS 484B.657 conviction also carries a one-year driver’s license suspension.5 But the defendant may be able to drive after six months on a restricted license.6
3. What are the defenses?
The primary defense to NRS 484B.657 criminal charges is that the defendant was not at fault for the accident. Valuable evidence would include:
- Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert;
- Surveillance video from the time of the accident;
- Weather reports;
- Road reports; and
- The drivers’ medical records
The defense attorney would then investigate the following possibilities:
- The victim was more at fault than the defendant;
- The defendant had an unforeseeable medical episode;
- The defendant was not in actual physical control of any vehicle;
- A third-party was the one really at fault; or
- Neither party was at fault, and the event was a blameless accident.
The prosecution has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So the defense attorney would try to show that the state’s evidence is too weak to sustain a conviction. If the prosecutors see they cannot win, they may drop the charges.
4. Can the record get sealed?
Yes. NRS 484B.657 cases are sealable in Nevada. Convictions can be sealed one year after the case ends.7 If the case gets dismissed, there is no waiting period.8
The record seal process takes up to one year. Learn how to seal Nevada criminal records.
5. What are the immigration consequences?
However, immigration law is in an uncertain state. The rules are constantly being rewritten. So non-citizens charged with any crime should consult with an attorney right away.
6. Is vehicular homicide different?
Yes. It is a separate and unrelated crime.
After a fatal car accident, the least serious crime the driver can face is vehicular manslaughter. The most serious is a vehicular homicide charge.
In California? Go to our page on vehicular manslaughter (92(c) PC).
- NRS 484B.657; Cornella v. Churchill Cnty., 377 P.3d 97, 132 Nev. Adv. Rep. 58, (2016).
- Nevada Revised Statute 484B.653.
- NRS 484B.657.
- NRS 484B.130.
- NRS 483.460.
- NRS 483.464.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.