Homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle cases carry serious felony penalties.  Hire a top criminal defense attorney to defend your case.

Homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle cases carry significant felony penalties.  Those penalties involve time in prison, fines, and the social stigma attached to murder cases.  Hiring a top criminal defense attorney is a crucial first step to take when facing a crime like this.

All murder charges are certainly serious.  While homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle includes the word “negligent,” it’s still a homicide charge.  It’s a Class G felony, meaning the punishment is 10 years in prison, $25,000.00 in fines, or both.

Finally, the criminal defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office are specialists.  We’ve defended homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle cases.  We certainly more aggravated cases, like first degree intentional homicide.  And importantly, we focus 100% of our representation on criminal defense.  To speak with our criminal defense attorneys about your criminal case, call us at (414) 270-0202.

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What is homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle?

Section 940.10 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.  There are two versions of the offense, but the only difference in the status of the victim.  Section 940.10(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes deals with homicide of another human being.  Section 940.10(2) of the Wisconsin Statutes deals with an unborn child victim.  Frequently, prosecutors refer to the latter offense as homicide of an unborn child by negligent operation of a vehicle.

All crimes in Wisconsin have elements.  Elements are parts of the crime, and each element must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  Unless prosecutors can sustain that burden, the case against you must be dismissed.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1170 describes this offense:

  1. The defendant operated a vehicle.
  2. The defendant operated the vehicle in a manner constituting criminal negligence.
  3. The defendant’s criminal negligence caused the death of the victim.

These elements are an easier way for citizens to understand the law.  They’re also what a judge reads to jurors at trial.  Let’s consider an example to illustrate this offense: Defendant operates his motor vehicle on a residential street, where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour.  The defendant, however, drives his vehicle at 100 miles per hour down the street. Eventually he collides with another car, killing the occupant.  Finally, the victim dies.  Likely in this scenario the defendant will be charged with homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.

Important definitions:

Cause means that the defendant’s act was a substantial factor in producing the death.  Criminal negligence means:

  • The defendant’s operation of the vehicle created a risk of death or great bodily harm; and
  • The risk of death or great bodily harm was unreasonable and substantial; and
  • The defendant should have been aware that his operation of the vehicle created the unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm.

Homicide of an unborn child by negligent operation of a vehicle is a very similar offense.  That charge simply substitutes “unborn child” with “victim.”  The term “unborn child” means any individual of the human species from fertilization until birth that is gestating inside a woman.

A car accident causing death
Homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle cases are serious. For serious murder defense, contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202.

Important legal issues dealing with this charge:

The statute refers to “operating or handling” of the vehicle, but the jury instruction simply uses “operate” throughout.  There’s no definition of operate in the criminal code.  Instead, courts turn to caselaw when defining operate.  “Operate means the physical manipulation or activation of any of the controls of a motor vehicle necessary to put it in motion.”  See Milwaukee County v. Proegler, 95 Wis.2d 614, 291 N.W. 2d 608 (Ct. App. 1980).

Finally, while it seems obvious, in unique situations the homicide could be caused by the operation of something not a car or truck.  What if we’re dealing with a tractor?  Or, in even more unique circumstances, some kind of propelled lawnmower?  “Vehicle” means any self-propelled device for moving persons or property from one place to another, whether such device is operated on land, rails, water, or in the air.  This interesting definition opens the charge up to boats, airplanes, and trains.

What’s the difference between ordinary negligence and criminal negligence?

You’ve certainly noticed that homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle cases require the defendant act with criminal negligence.  And the jury instruction provides a simple definition of that term.  But, what’s the difference between that and ordinary negligence?  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 925 provides that definition:

Criminal negligence is ordinary negligence to a high degree.  Ordinary negligence exists when a person creates an unreasonable risk of harm to another by failing to exercise ordinary case.  Ordinary care is the amount of care which a reasonable person exercises under similar circumstances.  Negligence does not require that the person be aware of the risk of harm that his or her conduct creates; it is sufficient that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would be aware of that risk.

Criminal negligence differs from ordinary negligent in two respects.  First, the conduct must create a risk not only of some harm but also of serious harm – that is, of death or great bodily harm.  Second, the risk of that harm must not only be unreasonable, it also must be substantial.  Therefore, for the defendant’s conduct to constitute criminal negligence, the defendant should have realized that the conduct created a substantial and unreasonable risk of death or great bodily harm to another.

Finally, why should I hire Van Severen Law Office to defend against my charges?

Your life is on the line.  You could be given a ten year prison sentence.  A felony conviction makes getting a job difficult and makes it a crime for you to possess a gun for the rest of your life.

We’re a criminal defense law firm – we certainly focus all our resources on defending individuals accused of criminal charges.  We don’t work on non-criminal cases because it won’t help us win your murder case.  If you’re looking for a defense attorney as serious as you are, contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 today.

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