What Does Criminal Vehicular Operation Mean?
Each time you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, you are accepting responsibility. If you recklessly ignore this responsibility, you can face criminal charges. If you harm another individual due to your disregard for their safety, you could face charges for criminal vehicular operation. Criminal vehicular operation is a serious offense under Minnesota laws. A conviction of this charge can impact your life forever. You could spend years in prison and pay several thousands of dollars in fines. You could lose your job and never be able to work in your field again. The stakes are high. If a prosecutor is filing criminal vehicular operation charges against you, there is no time to waste. You need to secure the legal representation of a seasoned Minneapolis criminal defense attorney right away.
The attorneys of Gerald Miller are prepared to protect your rights. Facing prosecution for a serious offense is never easy, but having the guidance of aggressive defense counsel could help you secure the favorable outcome you deserve. Our firm is proud to fight for the accused, and we are ready to put our combined experience to work in your case. Reach out right away for your free consultation.
Criminal Vehicular Operation in Minnesota
The crime of criminal vehicular operation is governed by statute. Under Minnesota Statute 609.2113, you could face charges of criminal vehicular operation if you do one or more of the following while operating a vehicle:
- Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
● Causing an accident and then intentionally leaving the scene of the accident
● Grossly negligent driving of a vehicle
● Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher
● Failing to correct a vehicular defect for which you were issued a warning or a citation, and later causing injury or death to another driver because of the defect
Depending on the situation, criminal vehicular operation may not be the only crime with which you are charged. However, by hiring a skilled Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer, you increase your chances of having the charges dropped or downgraded to a lesser offense.
Injury Classification for Criminal Vehicular Operation
The same Minnesota statute also categorizes non-fatal injuries sustained as a result of the criminal vehicular operation. The category of injuries will determine the severity of the charges. The severity of these injuries will have on impact on the potential penalties you face, with great bodily harm resulting in the highest penalties. The three categories are:
- Bodily harm— Illness, physical injury or pain, or other physical impairments. A conviction under this category could lead to up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $3,000. This is the only category that is a misdemeanor charge; the rest are felonies.
● Substantial bodily harm— Bodily injury that results in short-term yet considerable impairment or loss of function of any body part, or short-term yet considerable disfigurement. If convicted for causing these types of injuries, penalties could include as many as 3 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
● Great bodily harm— Bodily injury that leaves a high likelihood that the victim sustained a severe permanent disfigurement or bodily impairment, or that the victim will succumb to their injuries. This type of conviction can result in up to 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Fatal Criminal Vehicular Operation
If your actions cause someone to die, either at the scene of the accident or afterward, due to the injuries they sustained, the consequences are much harsher. You could be charged with vehicular homicide and could face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $20,000. In addition to prison time and fines, you could also face:
- A loss of driving privileges
● Forfeiture of your vehicle
● Loss of your rights to possess a firearm
● Difficulty getting a job or being granted loans in the future
Keep in mind that, if the person you injure dies because of their injuries at a date after the accident, your charges will likely be upgraded to vehicular homicide.
When an Unborn Child Is a Victim
Minnesota’s criminal vehicular operation laws also apply to unborn babies who are injured or killed because of negligent or reckless driving behaviors. These charges are felonies as well. Causing the death of an unborn child is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000. Injury to the unborn child carries the same fine and a maximum of five years in prison.
Defenses in a Vehicular Operation Case
Defending charges of criminal vehicular operation can be difficult given how broad those charges are. There are several different options for the state to establish guilt in this offense, and they only need to prove one of them. That means some of the viable defenses in your case will depend on the theory the state runs with. Some of the defense options include:
- Not Grossly Negligent. One of the elements the state could be required to establish is that you operated a vehicle in a grossly negligent manner. This is a subjective standard that leaves ample room to show you were safe in your operation of your vehicle.
- Not Under the Influence. Many of the elements in vehicular operation cases involve being impaired. There are different ways for the state to prove impairment. A prosecutor could show that your blood alcohol concentration was above the legal limit, that you had illegal drugs in your system, or that you were simply impaired. Proving impairment is subject, and these allegations could be countered by evidence that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Lack of Evidence. It is important to remember that the state always has the burden of proof when it comes to your criminal vehicular operation case. There are times when your attorney will evaluate the evidence against you and determine it is not enough for a conviction. At trial, their focus would be on highlighting the deficiencies in the state’s case. Remember, you do not have to prove your innocence.
- Challenges to Chemical tests. Another powerful defense in many criminal vehicular operation cases is a challenge to the results of a chemical test. The state often relies on the result of blood, breath, or urine tests to secure a conviction on these charges. If your attorney is able to exclude the results of these tests, you could be able to avoid a conviction. These results could be excluded if the samples were not tested or collected according to state regulations.
How an Attorney Could Help
You do not have to face allegations of criminal vehicular operation on your own. Hiring an attorney could ensure that you take all the steps necessary to aggressively pursue a fair verdict. Some of the ways an attorney could help you fight a criminal vehicular operation charge include:
- Investigating Your Case. Before you can develop a defense strategy, it is important to have all the facts. This typically begins with a careful review of your arrest report. Your attorney could also speak with you and other witnesses to ensure they understand exactly what happened prior to your arrest.
- Develop a Defense Strategy. There are different defense options available, but picking the right one is not always easy. Your attorney could help you review the facts of your case and determine the right approach for your defense strategy.
- Negotiate a Plea. Many vehicular operation cases end with a plea bargain. Your attorney could negotiate a fair offer that keeps you out of jail, reduces the severity of the offense, or potentially has your case resolved without a criminal conviction on your record.
- Try your Case. Despite the best efforts of your legal counsel, taking your case to trial might represent your best opportunity to secure an acquittal. A trial can be stress, but your attorney can ensure you know what to expect. This includes preparing you to testify if you determine doing so is in your best interest.
Your Trusted Criminal Vehicular Operation Attorneys
If you are facing criminal charges for criminal vehicular operation or vehicular homicide, it is imperative that you pursue the help of a practiced Minneapolis criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. Let us help you prepare to do everything possible to defend your rights and future.
More than 10,000 individuals in Minnesota have sought the services of Gerald Miller, P.A. over the past 30 years. Our firm continues to help those who are facing criminal vehicular operation charges in the Minneapolis area and throughout the state. We are available to help you 24/7. Are you ready to schedule your criminal defense consultation? Contact us online or call 612-448-9231.
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