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Light penalties in Ohio for Some Cases of Vehicular Homicide

In Ohio, the penalties for killing a person vary widely, from the death penalty or life to as little as 180 days in jail.

October 08, 2010 ( In Ohio, the penalties for killing a person vary widely, depending on how it happens. If one is engaged in a felony such as rape or arson and one kills a person, one could be sentenced to death or life without parole.

If on commits plain murder, the sentence ranges from 15 years to life.

If one is convicted of vehicular homicide, the sentence could be as little as 180 days.

A case from February highlights the minimal sentences one can receive when one uses a vehicle to kill a person. Richard Crabtree was killed when his car was struck making a left turn by a vehicle running a red light.

The driver, Steven J. Tirpak, had a history of criminal infractions, from speeding tickets to drug possession and theft, claimed the light was yellow, but multiple witnesses who indicted it was red.

Prosecutors had a choice of charging him with vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide. But even the more serious charge of vehicular homicide only carried a 180 sentence, 90 days of which the judge suspended, which enabled the court to maintain supervision over Tirpak for the next five years as probation. Of course, it means Tirpak only served 90 days for the death of Crabtree. Or as his wife put it: "Our lives are totally destroyed, forever; and he got 90 days in jail."

Because of her experience, Jenny Crabtree intends to lobby state lawmakers to strengthen vehicular-homicide punishments in Ohio.

This would not be the first time the vehicular homicide statute has been revised by the legislature; in 2006, OVI-related aggravated vehicular homicide increased penalties for vehicular homicide related to driving while intoxicated. Additional changes were made in 2009.

The penalties within the section have also been further enhanced for driving without a license or a suspended license. Unfortunately, for Jenny Crabtree none of the enhancements applied to the death of her husband. The driver had a valid license, was not intoxicated and was not in a construction zone.

Civil Suit?

The widow of Richard Crabtree brought a civil lawsuit for damages against Tirpak, but because he had no assets and little insurance, she will only receive $12,500. This is an important point to consider for any person who has lost a family member in a wrongful death.

You may not be able to easily determine the financial resources a person responsible for severe injuries or a wrongful death. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you on the likely value of a case and help examine the potential sources of compensation.

Depending on who caused the injuries or death, there may be various sources of compensation. Individual may have personal assets and insurance policies; if the other driver was on-the-job, the business they worked for may be responsible and have multiple insurance policies or other assets. And if the city or state has some responsibility, due to poorly designed, built or maintained roads, there may be compensation available for those sources.

Because of the complexity of these questions, you should never assume there are no assets to provide for a recovery. You should speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can look at your situation and provide an analysis that allows you to make an informed decision on your how to proceed.

Article provided by Novak, Robenalt & Pavlik, L.L.P
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[] Light penalties in Ohio for Some Cases of Vehicular Homicide
In Ohio, the penalties for killing a person vary widely, from the death penalty or life to as little as 180 days in jail.