As a resident of the Denver metropolitan area, you have probably escaped to Colorado’s mountains. When returning to the city, you have no doubt seen signs warning commercial truckers about steep grades and hot brakes. In late April, a commercial truck driver seemingly ignored a runaway truck ramp, allowing his 18-wheeler to plow into stopped traffic. When the smoke cleared, four motorists were dead.

According to media reports, the driver of the runaway semi-truck faces 40 criminal counts, many of which are felonies. Perhaps the most serious of these charges, though, are four counts of vehicular homicide. If you regularly drive on Colorado’s roadways, you must understand what constitutes vehicular homicide in the Centennial State.

The elements of vehicular homicide

Colorado law makes vehicular homicide a crime. Pursuant to section 18-3-106 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, an individual commits vehicular homicide if both of the following elements are true:

In theory, for a judge or jury to convict you of vehicular homicide, you must know your driving is risky. You must also disregard the risk. If you do not realize your driving is dangerous, you may be guilty of a different crime: criminally negligent homicide. While that offense is usually less severe than vehicular homicide, it is still a felony.

Defending a vehicular homicide charge

No Coloradoan wants to be in the middle of a motor vehicle accident. While most accidents are only an inconvenience, some are deadly. If prosecutors charge you with vehicular homicide, you must act quickly and diligently to defend yourself and otherwise assert your legal rights. There are a variety of ways to combat a vehicular homicide charge. As such, only after a comprehensive analysis of the facts and law can you develop a defense strategy.

The penalties for vehicular homicide in Colorado are stiff. A conviction may result in between four and 12 years in state prison. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $750,000. By understanding what constitutes vehicular homicide, you can better strategize for avoiding the significant legal consequences that accompany a conviction.