The recent rise in Black Lives Matter protests has heightened tensions throughout the country. Protestors have been the victims of attacks from law enforcement, gun violence, and a wave of vehicle ramming attacks.
Vehicle ramming attacks are not new to the far-right. In 2017, a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Vehicle Ramming Attacks Are Historically Terrorist Attacks
Running your car into a crowd of protestors is not the brainchild of white supremacists. In the 1990s, Palestinians used vehicle ramming attacks in Israel.
Twenty years later, ISIS and al Qaeda began to encourage followers to enlist the same type of attack. Now, we are seeing more of these attacks happening in the United States.
Although the federal government has put out information on the danger of vehicle ramming attacks, charges against drivers are handled at the state level. No one, including law enforcement, is immune to these attacks.
Memes and social media posts may poke fun at these vehicle-ramming incidents, but the drivers who choose to “run them over” could face years behind bars.
What Charges Can You Face For Vehicle Ramming Attacks?
Laws regarding felony and misdemeanor death by vehicle have not been updated in North Carolina since vehicle ramming has been used as a terrorist attack.
The laws do not currently mention protests or racially-motivated attacks. The word “terrorist” does not appear in the statute.
Instead, North Carolina determines the severity of a vehicle ramming attack by the injuries or death resulting from the incident and whether or not the driver was impaired.
North Carolinians may face second-degree murder charges for killing protestors with their car. The driver may not outright tell law enforcement that they intended to kill anyone in the crowd, but the recklessness of their driving may be sufficient evidence for that charge to hold.
Prosecutors need to prove that the offender “had the intent to perform the act of driving in such a reckless manner as reflects the knowledge that injury or death would likely result, thus evidencing depravity of mind.”
Second-degree murder is considered a Class B1 or B2 felony, depending on the driver’s intentions. The minimum sentence for a Class B1 felony in North Carolina is 144 months in prison.
If the defendant is charged with a Class B2 felony, they could face a minimum of 94 months behind bars.
Vehicular Homicide Charges
If the driver was impaired, or they did not cause the death of any protestors, they may find themselves facing one of six charges:
- Felony Death by Vehicle (Class D felony)
- Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle (Class A1 misdemeanor)
- Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle (Class F felony)
- Aggravated Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle (Class E felony)
- Aggravated Felony Death by Vehicle (Class D felony)
- Repeat Felony Death by Vehicle Offender (Class B1 felony)
Felony vs. Misdemeanor Death by Vehicle Charges
How are felony and misdemeanor death by vehicle charges determined? Law enforcement will assess the impairment of the driver.
If a driver’s BAC was .08 (or .04, if they were driving a commercial vehicle) and caused another person’s death, they will face felony death by vehicle charges. If they were texting behind the wheel or breaking any other state laws, they will face misdemeanor death by vehicle charges. Intention does not play into these, or any vehicular homicide charges.
If the defendant has a history of impaired driving, they can face aggravated felony death or serious injury by vehicle charges. If the defendant has a history of felony death by vehicle convictions, they will face repeat felony death by vehicle offender charges.
All Charges of Vehicle Ramming Are Serious
Even one previous impaired driving case can significantly change the charges against you in later years. If you have been charged with impaired driving or vehicular homicide, call a North Carolina defense lawyer immediately.