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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > When Does a DUI Become Manslaughter in Virginia?

When Does a DUI Become Manslaughter in Virginia?


Across the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is illegal to drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. Any person who operates a motor vehicle, engine, or train while impaired and incapable of driving safely is guilty of DUI in Virginia.

Most drivers charged with a first or second DUI offense generally face misdemeanor criminal charges. At this level, the jail sentence and corresponding fines are relatively light. Though, if a driver registers an unreasonably high blood-alcohol concentration level – or was transporting a minor during the offense – certain mandatory minimum punishments come into play.

Additionally, if a driver commits a DUI offense and causes the death of another person, they can face criminal charges for manslaughter as well. Virginia law provides separate considerations for voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and aggravated involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter

The definition of voluntary manslaughter in Virginia exists at common law. In other words, Virginia does not have a statute that provides an exact definition of voluntary manslaughter. Instead, Virginia relies on legal precedence and past case law to shape the boundaries of voluntary manslaughter.

At common law, voluntary manslaughter occurs when there is a non-malicious killing of an intentional nature. Stated otherwise, the killer intended to kill the victim, but had no bad intention. Examples of voluntary manslaughter include people fighting each other and heat-of-the-moment responses to reasonable provocation.

Under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-35, voluntary manslaughter is a Class 5 felony. The maximum sentence for this class of felony in Virginia includes 10 years in prison and $2,500 in criminal fines.

Involuntary Manslaughter

The definition of involuntary manslaughter in Virginia also exists at common law as the unintentional killing of another person. For example, any person who commits DUI and unintentionally causes the death of another person will likely face charges for involuntary manslaughter.

Under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-36, involuntary manslaughter is a Class 5 felony. The maximum punishment for this offense is the same as described previously for voluntary manslaughter. Moreover, the offender will face mandatory revocation of driving privileges.

Aggravated Involuntary Manslaughter

The definition of aggravated involuntary manslaughter in Virginia appears under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-36.1. When a person commits involuntary manslaughter and demonstrates a reckless disregard for human life, it becomes aggravated involuntary manslaughter.

Under Section 36.1, aggravated involuntary manslaughter is a felony crime. The maximum sentence for this felony in Virginia is 20 years in prison. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 12 months in prison. Additionally, the offender will face mandatory revocation of driving privileges.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you have legal questions about criminal charges for DUI or manslaughter in Virginia, it can be exceedingly helpful to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. The Leesburg criminal defense attorneys at Simms Showers LLP feature widespread experience in matters of criminal defense, including DUI and manslaughter charges. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.


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