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Drowsiness as a defense for vehicular manslaughter

The term “vehicular manslaughter” may cause you as well as other Brooklyn residents to conjure up images of drivers recklessly using their vehicles as veritable weapons. Yet as many of those that we here at the office of Neil S. Ruskin have defended from such charges can attest to, any number of factors can lead to one being accused of such a crime. For example, say that you inadvertently fall asleep behind the wheel and you end up causing an accident that kills another. Could your conduct warrant being charged with vehicular manslaughter?

 This crime is often grouped into those termed to be forms of involuntary manslaughter. To be charged with involuntary manslaughter, it must be shown that your actions, on top of having taken the life of another, were inherently dangerous or done with little regard for others, and that you were aware of such a fact. As few ever intend to fall asleep behind the wheel, it may be argued that drowsy driving does not meet the standard of negligence.

The standards supporting culpability established by the State of New York seem to support this idea. They state that in order to be culpable, one must demonstrate:

  •          Intent: Having a conscious objective to engage in certain conduct
  •          Knowledge: Knowing that conduct may be contributory to a certain offense
  •          Recklessness: Deviating so far from the conduct that a reasonable person would observe in a given situation
  •          Criminal negligence: Failing to perceive the risks posed by a certain action when it might be assumed a reasonable person would

While some may argue that drowsiness can be avoided, it may also be the unintended consequences of taking a medication or overexertion. You can learn more about defending yourself against vehicular offenses by continuing to explore our site. 

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