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Tragedy can occur within the blink of an eye. A pedestrian could cross the road at the wrong time, or another motorist could be distracted. Regardless of the circumstances, if you drive while intoxicated and cause a fatality, the court may be unforgiving.

The Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder

To understand the gravity of a criminal fatality, it’s important to understand the difference between murder and manslaughter.


The main difference between murder and manslaughter is intent. Generally, murder is done with intention – the goal is to kill another person. Murder charges are serious, and conviction often comes with harsh penalties like lengthy prison sentences and restitution.


While manslaughter lacks intent, it is still a serious criminal charge. When someone is charged with manslaughter, they are held responsible for the death of another person due to their own negligence.

Where murder requires forethought and intent, manslaughter results from negligible behavior. For example, two people are fighting, and one throws a vase and hits the other person in the head. The person was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital but died in the ambulance.

In this case, the person threw the vase but didn’t intend to kill the other person. They performed the act without the intent of serious harm. The lack of criminal intent makes this an example of manslaughter, not murder.

DUI Manslaughter

Manslaughter is the lack of intent and the presence of negligence. In a drunk/high driving scenario, the driver is not driving intending to kill another motorist or pedestrian, but they are ignoring their duty of care to obey road rules.

According to the court, drunk driving is negligible behavior because it’s the willful ignorance of the law and a lack of consideration for the safety of other drivers. West Virginia law says that the prosecution must prove a reckless disregard for the law and/or causation.

Reckless disregard is another term for negligence. Someone knowingly does something that could endanger others. Causation refers to the idea that the driver’s actions were the direct cause of death.

In other words, the intoxicated driver must be responsible for the death of another person – if the individual died because they ran a red light or had a stroke while driving, there is no causation.

Penalties for DUI Manslaughter

Depending on the circumstances, DUI manslaughter, or negligent homicide, is punishable by a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The court may also call for the suspension of your license.

In some cases, a DUI could be charged as a felony which carries more serious penalties. If reckless disregard and causation are contributing factors, the court may see fit to issue a sentence of up to five years in jail, $5,000 fines, and permanent license revocation.

Your Case Isn’t Hopeless

DUI manslaughter charges are serious and can ruin your life if convicted in court. However, your case isn’t hopeless. Attorney Harley Wagner has helped thousands of clients accused of DUIs protect their freedom.

He has dedicated his career to DUI law in West Virginia and understands the legal process from all sides. When you choose Attorney Wagner, you put your case in good hands.

Contact The Wagner Law Firm today for more information.