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Vehicular Assault

Vehicular Assault Definition

Vehicular assault is a form of assault that occurs when a vehicle is used to harm or threaten to harm another person. Vehicular assault is quite commonly paired with other traffic offenses. An example of how vehicular assault can be combined with other offenses is if an individual is speeding and hits a pedestrian or another driver in the process. The driver could be liable for both reckless driving and vehicular assault. Other charges that can be paired with vehicular assault are DUIs and driving without a license. 

How Do States Define Vehicular Assault in Their Statutes? 

States define vehicular assault in many different ways. Not all states provide a separate crime of vehicular assault. In some states, an assessment is made about whether an individual was injured during a traffic offense to decide whether a vehicular assault has occurred. States also allow a victim to sue in civil court to recover damages resulting from the vehicular assault such as property loss, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

In many states, vehicular assault can be charged as a separate criminal offense. To meet the required threshold, the injuries that an individual suffered have to be severe. To date, New York, Colorado, and Oregon are states that have the most established definitions of vehicular assault. 

What Elements Are Required to Prove a Vehicular Assault Has Taken Place? 

Each state has different statutes defining how to decide whether a vehicular assault has taken place. Typically, states charge drivers with vehicular assault when a driver causes bodily harm if the following actions have taken place: 

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 
  • Driving recklessly or negligently.
  • Driving with either a suspended or revoked license. 

What If the Individual Dies Who Was Hit? 

If the individual dies as a result of vehicular assault, then the offense escalates in severity. For example, vehicular assault would then become a vehicular homicide, which has far more severe penalties. States can also combine additional charges with vehicular homicide, and these charges will be determined based on the particular facts of the case and the driver's driving record. For drivers that have many severe offenses, courts can even revoke driver's licenses permanently in the most extreme cases. 

What Are the Punishments for Vehicular Assaults? 

States are divided when trying to classify vehicular assaults as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In many states, if the vehicular assault causes serious bodily harm, or is resulting from driving under the influence, the driver will be charged with a felony. Felony charges can result in several years in prison and substantial fines. If the vehicular assault is less severe, then a driver may be charged with a misdemeanor. Regardless of whether the vehicular assault is classified as a felony or misdemeanor, the driver will likely have to serve at least some jail time. 

States take vehicular assault seriously because the driver committed the crime intentionally. Many states will also suspend a driver's license temporarily and require the driver to take remedial classes and pay fines before they can have their license reinstated. 

What If the Victim Was Pregnant? 

In several states, there have been cases where pregnant women have been hit where a vehicular assault charge was filed. Courts have split decisions on this issue; however, some states do classify the unborn child as a legal person that is entitled to receive damages. If the mother or unborn child are killed, then the severity of the vehicular assault could escalate to two counts of vehicular homicide in some states. 

Vehicular Assault Glossary Definition 

Vehicular assault is a crime where the driver of a car causes the fear of imminent bodily injury or bodily injury to another person. Vehicular assault is a crime that states take very seriously and many times, suspend the driver's license and force them to take additional educational courses as a punishment. If the victim is killed, then many states raise a vehicular assault charge to a vehicular homicide charge. Drivers should think twice before engaging in reckless behaviors that can lead to a vehicular assault charge since it is challenging to repair their driving record once these charges have been filed.