Double Jeopardy Precludes Simultaneous Convictions for DUI and Vehicular Homicide from Single Incident

Double Jeopardy Precludes Simultaneous Convictions for DUI and Vehicular Homicide from Single Incident

This is an appeal of a guilty plea in Hamilton County Criminal Court of defendant’s plea to DUI, vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.  The facts involve a two car head on accident near the roundabout on Signal Mountain Rd. resulting in two fatalities.  One victim being a passenger in the defendant’s car the other victim was the driver of the second vehicle.  Others in both vehicles including the defendant were also seriously injured.  The BAC for the defendant was .17.

The CCA held that double jeopardy prohibits separate convictions for DUI, vehicular homicide and vehicular assault based upon one act of driving under the influence that causes serious bodily injury or death and that the claim was not necessarily waived on direct appeal if the convictions were pursuant to a guilty plea. State v. Rhodes, 917 S.W.2d 708, 713 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1995); see also Menna v. New York, 423 U.S. 61, 62 (1975).

Tennessee appellate courts have previously held that double jeopardy precludes simultaneous convictions for DUI and vehicular homicide by intoxication. State v. Thomas W. Cothran, No. M2005-00559-CCA-R3-CD, 2005 WL 3199275, at *8 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Nashville, Nov. 29, 2005). Here the court found the appellant’s convictions for DUI, vehicular homicide by intoxication, and vehicular assault offend double jeopardy principles.

The CCA concludes that the trial court should have merged the DUI conviction into the convictions for vehicular homicide by intoxication and vehicular assault.  Accordingly, the court vacated  the defendant’s DUI conviction.  As a practical matter the defendant’s sentence remains the same as the DUI and vehicular homicide and vehicular assault convictions were all concurrent sentences as part of the plea agreement. 

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