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Teenagers shouldn't be drinking in the first place, let alone drinking and driving. That's just one of the many ways to make a DUI worse. Another way? Cause an accident, especially a fatal one. That can turn a tragic situation into a felony manslaughter charge, as a 19-year-old woman recently found out.
Here's a look at that case, as well as underage DUI and DUI manslaughter laws.
According to law enforcement, Erica Weinman was traveling eastbound on I-84 in Connecticut around 10 p.m. last October when she left the roadway, crossed over the center median, and hit a car that was traveling westbound, killing 59-year-old Kevin Klein and injuring two others. It's unclear what, if anything, Weinman was charged with last year, but the Hartford Courant reports she was taken into custody last Friday on a fugitive from justice charge, then charged with DUI, second-degree manslaughter and failure to drive in the proper lane on a highway.
Two of those charges appear fairly obvious. As a 19-year-old, Weinman is likely guilty of per se DUI, and may be subject to zero tolerance DUI laws, whereby any amount of alcohol in her system at all is a crime. Also, given the accident, it is likely she crossed the center line.
The more complicated part is charging a fatal accident as manslaughter. While many states divide the crime of manslaughter between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter laws, Connecticut manslaughter laws divide charges and penalties based upon the degree of violence used and whether the killing was reckless or negligent. More specifically, manslaughter in the second degree with a motor vehicle applies to drivers who cause the death of another person while under the influence of alcohol.
Second degree manslaughter is a Class C felony in Connecticut, so Weinman could be looking at 10 years in prison for that charge alone. DUI manslaughter charges are as serious as they come -- if you've been charged with any DUI offense, make sure you talk to an experienced attorney today.