2 years ago in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a guy was driving 105 km/h (max allowed 60) through red light and killed two teenage girls on crosswalk. He didn't even bother to stop. Instead, he called his sister and friend to get him to Serbia border where he fled to Serbia. Later he turned himself and was extradited to Bosnia where the trial began. Now the trial is over and he is accused of "causing general danger" and "not helping injured", but there is no mention of killing someone. The prosecutors want the maximum sentence for those two crimes which is, I believe, only 8 years.

So, how would the crime be treated in the US? What would be the charges? What is the maximum sentence he could get?

  • 4
    It'd be handled under state law - every state has its own. So please specify which of the 50 US states you want to know about. Aug 31, 2018 at 13:43
  • I once watched a hit and run case in district court where a pedestrian was killed. The pedestrian was homeless and kind of treated insignificant or disposable. The fellow driving the car hired a high price lawyer who looked like a pimp from the 1970s. Twice the officer did not show for court. The second time the defense attorney explained the cop was home sick with the flu. The case was dismissed. It happened in Baltimore City, MD, US in 2008. The driver walked out hugging his attorney.
    – jww
    Sep 19, 2018 at 11:14
  • Also worth mentioning that the relationship between the sentence imposed in court and the actual time served varies greatly from one U.S. state to another. sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2023/02/… Still, in general, sentences for comparable serious crimes tned to be shorter in Europe than in the U.S.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 1, 2023 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


Assuming that this wasn't a planned murder or assault, the most serious charge would be vehicular homicide. In the US, this is governed by state law, but states are not radically different in whether this is a crime. In Washington, under RCW 46.61.520, vehicular homicide is a class A felony, punishable by

imprisonment in a state correctional institution for a maximum term fixed by the court of not less than twenty years, or by a fine in an amount fixed by the court of not more than fifty thousand dollars, or by both such imprisonment and fine

The crimes is defined as causing death while driving

(a) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 46.61.502; or (b) In a reckless manner; or (c) With disregard for the safety of others.

and such speeding is highly likely to be found to constitute the element of recklessness. There are also hit-and-run charges, which is a class B felony (10 years and $20,000). A person can be found guilty of both charges, and the judge can apply the prison sentences consecutively, meaning you add them up, rather than serve the jail time at the same time (in this case, essentially dispensing with the hit-and-run term). The law is written so that a killing is a crime, and if you kill two people that could be two charges (the question is whether there is a single act or two – most likely there was a single act in this particular case). There is no state where recklessly killing a person while driving is legal.

First degree murder could be considered under 9A.32.030 if a person "Under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life, he or she engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to any person, and thereby causes the death of a person". That kind of charge was applied to the Charlottesville driver, but it is highly unlikely to be applied to even the most extreme speeding.

The actual penalty imposed depends on the sentencing laws of the state. In Washington there is a complex calculation based on the severity of the crime (16 degrees – vehicular homicide is level 11), prior criminal history, whether there are multiple convictions (vehicular homicide and hit-and-run). Aggravating and mitigating circumstances can also be considered to compute the actual sentence; I don't see any way for a non-specialist to guess what the actual penalty would be in this case.

  • Highly likely, or highly unlikely? The construction of the sentence suggests the latter.
    – Ben Voigt
    Sep 3, 2018 at 4:29

In the United States, most Speeding in Excess is a misdemeanor as is Failing to Stop for pedestrians, who have the right of way in a crosswalk in all situations (even if they do not have the light).

Leaving the Scene of an Accident is known as Hit and Run and can be anything from an infraction to a misdemeanor to a felony and the status would be based on the nature of the specific incident. To my knowledge, most jurisdictions in the United States will elevated the charge to Felony Hit and Run for bodily injury and all will probably apply it for resulting death.

The United States has a specific crime known as Vehicular Manslaughter, which covers death due to negligent operation of a motor vehicle or in violation of traffic safety laws. This could also take the form of Constructive Manslaughter, which is unintended death resulting from commission of a misdemeanor offense, or Felony Murder (unintended death resulting in the commission of a Felony), though most states will have the Vehicular Manslaughter which requires a lower burden of culpability than traditional murder or manslaughter.

Keep in mind, the prosecutor who receives the case has wide discretion in the charges and typically will reward criminals who make their job easier. For cooperating by turning himself in, the prosecutor may not press the manslaughter charges and may push for Felony Hit and Run, which would carry a lighter sentence. Additionally, 95% of U.S. Criminal Convicitions are done by cutting a deal with the Prosecutor's office for a Guilty Plea (which avoids the trial, which frees up court time for other cases) to lesser charges.

  • 1
    Pedestrians don't have right of way against the light. "a pedestrian entering a highway on a "Don't Walk" signal has no right of way, and the operator of a motor vehicle no longer has a duty to yield." - City of Hartford v. Godfrey, Wis Court of Appeals 1979 scholar.google.com/…
    – D M
    Aug 31, 2018 at 17:57

The laws in the United States vary by state. In Wisconsin, the law on homicide by negligent operation of vehicle says:

Whoever causes the death of another human being by the negligent operation or handling of a vehicle is guilty of a Class G felony.

However, he also fled the scene. Under Wisconsin law:

The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident shall reasonably investigate what was struck and if the operator knows or has reason to know that the accident resulted in injury or death of a person or in damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by a person, the operator shall stop the vehicle he or she is operating as close to the scene of the accident as possible and remain at the scene of the accident...

Fleeing the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor if there were no serious injuries. However, if the accident involved death, then it becomes a class D felony.

What is the maximum sentence he could get?

A class G felony is punishable by a fine not to exceed $25,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or both.

A class D felony is punishable by a fine not to exceed $100,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 25 years, or both. As you can see, this is actually a longer sentence for fleeing than for causing the two deaths in the first place.

However, it turns out that they can't actually sentence them to prison for that long. The number listed above is the combination of years in prison and extended supervision that he may be sentenced to. Here is what the prison portion of that sentence is allowed to be:

For a Class G felony, the term of confinement in prison may not exceed 5 years.

For a Class D felony, the term of confinement in prison may not exceed 15 years.

As far as I can tell, Wisconsin judges are free to impose the sentences concurrently or consecutively.

So, for 2 counts of homicide by negligent operation of vehicle plus 1 count of hit and run involving death, the maximum prison time could be 5 + 5 + 15 = 25 years, followed by 5 + 5 + 10 = 20 years of extended supervision, along with a fine of $25,000 + $25,000 + $100,000 = $150,000.

You say he also fled the country. Assuming he did this to avoid prosecution, this would be a federal crime punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison, in addition to the state charges.

  • FWIW, the vernacular term for fleeing the scene is a "hit and run".
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 5, 2018 at 0:39

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