California Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC
For you to face charges under California Law Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC, it should be evident that you violated Vehicle Code 23153, 23140, or 23152. In addition to the violation, you must have committed an unlawful act with gross negligence leading to the demise of another person.
What are the Elements of a Crime under California Law Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC?
The prosecutor should show that you operated a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The prosecutor should also prove that you committed another unlawful act that is not a felony. The additional unlawful act may be either a misdemeanor offense or an infraction. The prosecutor should also prove that you committed the additional act in a grossly negligent manner. It should be apparent that the victim died due to your gross negligence.
Intoxication under California Law
For you to understand the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter under the influence, it is essential to understand how California law defines intoxication. You are under the influence if you violate California driving under the influence law as outlined under Vehicle Code 23152 (a). You are also under the influence if you operate your car with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more, as outlined by 23152 (a) VC. You are also intoxicated if you operate your vehicle under the influence of drugs or the influence of both drugs and alcohol. If you are below the age of 21 years, you are under the influence if you operate your vehicle with a BAC of 0.05% or more according to 23140 VC.
What is Gross Negligence?
For a conviction under California law Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC, the prosecutor should prove that you acted with gross negligence. What does gross negligence entail? You may face a conviction for acting with gross negligence if you act in a careless manner that poses a risk of significant bodily injury or death. It should be apparent that under similar circumstances, a person of sound mind would have known that acting in such a manner would pose a significant risk. Acting in gross negligence is more than acting with ordinary recklessness or carelessness. Gross negligence is more than making an error in your judgment. The standard of determining negligence is how a reasonable person would have acted under similar circumstances.
Intoxication and committing a traffic violation does not qualify as gross negligence. The judge will also weigh other aspects of your conduct, including how you were driving. You will only face charges under California law Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC if you are grossly negligent acts lead to the death of another person. Your actions must be the direct cause of your death. You are guilty if the death of the victim is a natural and probable result of your actions. It is important to note that your negligent actions do not have to be the sole cause of death for you to face charges. Your actions or negligent conduct only needs to have substantially contributed to the death of the victim.
Consequences for Gross Vehicular Manslaughter under the Influence
According to California law, a violation under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC is a felony offense with severe consequences. The penalties for the offense include serving formal felony probation. While you are on probation, you have to adhere to the conditions of probation. The terms may consist of meeting with the probation officer or regularly visiting the probation office. The court may also require you to attend California DUI School and to carry out community service work while on probation. If you violate the requirements of probation, the court has the right to revoke the probation and recommend jail time.
You may also serve a prison term in state prison if you commit an offense under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC. The imprisonment period may vary from four years, six years, or ten years. The court may impose a hefty fine of up to $10,000.
The court may impose harsher penalties if you are a repeat DUI offender. You will face enhanced penalties if you have a prior conviction for ordinary or gross vehicular manslaughter under the influence. You will also face more penalties if you have a prior conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code 192 (c) PC. However, you will not face enhanced penalties if you have a previous conviction for ordinary vehicular manslaughter. A prior conviction of vehicular manslaughter involving a boat will lead to increased charges. Other prior offenses that may lead to additional charges include a DUI offense under 23152 VC and DUI causing injury under 23153 VC. If you have a previous conviction for the named crimes, you may face more extended prison term in a state prison in California. The imprisonment period may range from 15 years to life imprisonment in case you have prior convictions for outlined offenses.
If you commit the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter under the influence, you risk losing your driver's license. Suspension of California driver's license is one of the harsh penalties of a crime under the Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC. The California DMV may suspend your California driver's license for a period of up to three years. You should avoid operating your vehicle on a suspended/revoked license. Driving on a revoked/suspended license may lead to an additional charge under 14601 VC "Driving on a Suspended/revoked license."
Applicable Legal Defenses
An offense under Penal Code 191.5(a) PC is a serious crime under California law because it leads to the death of another person. However, you do not have to blame yourself and accept the harsh consequences of gross vehicular manslaughter under the influence. With the help of an attorney, you can fight the charges in court. With proper defense, the court may reduce your conviction to a lesser offense. If the prosecutor does not have enough evidence against you, your attorney can challenge the evidence in court, leading to the dismissal of your charges. Some of the commonly used legal defenses include:
You were not Under the Influence/Intoxicated
You may assert in court that at the time of the accident, you were not under the influence of alcohol. You may challenge the DUI results in court and prove that you were not intoxicated at the time of the accident. Upon stopping your vehicle, the police look for signs of intoxication, include fatigue, bloodshot, and watery eyes. You may challenge these symptoms by pointing out that the red and watery eyes were due to fatigue or illness. Your attorney may also help you to challenge the validity of your breath test of blood tests. For instance, the attorney may challenge the results if there was a violation of the DUI testing procedures.
You are not Guilty of Gross Negligence
To face charges under Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC, it must be apparent that you acted with gross negligence. You might deny the allegations in court that your conduct was grossly negligent. While operating a vehicle, you have to make some quick decisions. At times, the choices you make may be wrong and lead to an accident. However, this does not mean that the decisions signify gross negligence. If you successfully prove that you were not grossly negligent, the court may reduce or dismiss your charges.
The victim Died from other Causes not Due to Your Gross Negligence
Even if you operate your vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and another person died, there may be a chance that you did not cause the death of the victim. At times, negligence of a third party or the victim may cause an accident and lead to death. In some instances, forces not under your control may have led to the death of the victim. Your attorney may seek the support of an accident reconstruction expert to help determine what happened. Your attorney will challenge the evidence presented by the prosecutor and establish what happened.
You Acted Reasonably
When determining if you acted with gross negligence, the court considers how a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances. You may point out that you faced an emergency, and under the circumstances, you acted reasonably. You may assert that under the same circumstances, a reasonable person would have acted like you.
If you or your loved one is facing charges for an offense under Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC, you do not have to give up. The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel can help you come up with a good defense strategy. Contact us at 805-657-1798 and speak to one of our attorneys. We serve clients in Los Angeles County and the entire Los Angeles area.