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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > DWI and Involuntary Manslaughter

DWI and Involuntary Manslaughter

A Virginia man who was recently involved in a head-on car collision that killed a woman was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) and involuntary manslaughter. In Virginia you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you are involved in a fatal crash and were intoxicated at the time that you were driving. Though most of us hope to never be in the situation where it applies to us, it is important to understand the laws and consequences around DWI-related involuntary manslaughter.

The Law

Virginia Code § 18.2-36.1 is titled “Certain conduct punishable as involuntary manslaughter.” This section of the code goes on to describe the conditions that someone can be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, outside of the homicide statutes that define murder and manslaughter in the ways that we usually think about them being defined, meaning that there is some kind of intent behind them. This section of the code says: “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.”

Therefore, Virginia law basically says that if a driver causes a crash that results in a fatality, and the driver is under the influence, then the driver can be charged with involuntary manslaughter. To fully understand what this means we need to look to § 18.2-266 of the Virginia code to see how the state defines “driving under the influence.” Notice that the involuntary manslaughter statute specifically excludes section (i) of the DWI statute. Section (i) is the part of the statute that prescribes the .08 percent blood alcohol limit. Instead, the sections that are named in the involuntary manslaughter statute refer to being “under the influence” of alcohol and/or drugs. Since “under the influence” can be open to interpretation, it is especially important that you contact a skilled DWI attorney if you are charged with DWI and/or DWI-related involuntary manslaughter.


The penalty for involuntary manslaughter related to a DWI is up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. It is classified as a Class 5 felony. However, if the conduct of the driver was especially wanton or gross, or showed a reckless disregard for the life of others, the penalty can be raised to up to 20 years in prison. Conduct that falls under this provision includes having an extremely high blood alcohol level, or other highly unreasonable conduct. Penalties can also include being mandated to attend classes on alcohol and/or having your driver’s license suspended or revoked.

Leesburg Virginia DWI Attorneys

If you are charged with DWI in Virginia, especially if there was an accident with serious injuries or fatalities, you need a knowledgeable DWI attorney on your side to help you throughout your case. Our dedicated Leesburg, Virginia DWI attorneys at Simms Showers, LLP can assist you with your DWI and any other charges that you may have received in the incident, up to and including involuntary manslaughter.

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