What is criminal vehicular operation?

In November 2014, a driver in St. Paul struck a pedestrian who was crossing the road. According to TwinCities.com, the pedestrian suffered a brain hemorrhage and a broken rib, among other injuries. The 30-year-old motorist drove home, but law enforcement were able to determine his address by the car’s bumper and license plate, which had fallen off the vehicle at the scene.

The man, whose blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit, was arrested at his house and charged with criminal vehicular operation. As Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys know, such a charge can be a felony and therefore has serious consequences.

Defining the charge

According to the Minnesota statute, people may be found guilty of criminal vehicular operation when they have caused bodily harm to someone else while driving a vehicle under the following circumstances:

  • While having a blood alcohol content of .08 or more
  • While having any amount of a Schedule I or II substance other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols in their blood
  • While under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • While operating the vehicle in a grossly negligent manner
  • While having knowledge that a member of law enforcement had issued a ticket because of the vehicle’s defect or hazardous condition

A charge of criminal vehicular operation can also result when the driver leaves the scene of an accident.

The consequences

There are varying degrees of such a charge, and Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys understand the penalties associated with each. A felony charge will be applied to a situation in which the victim sustains either great bodily harm, which creates a high probability of death, or substantial bodily harm, which is typically a fracture or temporary disfigurement. These felony charges carry with them a maximum $10,000 fine, as well as up to five years in prison for an accident involving great bodily harm and three years in prison for substantial bodily harm.

If the incident involves an injury less than substantial or great bodily harm, the charge will often be classified as a gross misdemeanor. Defendants charged accordingly will still face as much as $10,000 in fines and a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

It is important to note that on top of prison time and fines, other penalties are often associated with criminal vehicular operation. For example, depending on the circumstances, drivers may lose their licenses and even have to forfeit their vehicles. A felony conviction in Minnesota can also mean losing the right to vote, as well as the right to possess a firearm.

Anyone with question about this type of charge should consult with Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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