Vehicular Manslaughter

California Laws Covering Vehicular Manslaughter

If you have been involved in an automobile accident which caused the death of another person, you may be facing criminal charges. Under the California Penal Code 192(c) PC a person who has unlawfully killed another human without malice may face charges of vehicular manslaughter as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of your case.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident where the death of another person has occurred, you will need an experienced violence defense attorney on your side. Vehicular Manslaughter is one of the most severe driving crimes under California Law, and the consequences could impact the rest of your life. An experienced attorney will help you determine if charges have been exaggerated or falsely filed.

California Penal Code 192(c)

Vehicular Manslaughter defined under Penal Code 192(c)is the unlawful killing of another human without malice while driving a vehicle. It is broken down to either ordinary negligence or gross negligence.

  • Ordinary negligence is a misdemeanor which occurs when the driver of a vehicle breaks a traffic law or drives in a reckless or inattentive manner. Ordinary negligence can include speeding, running a red light or distracted driving. This negligent driving results in a collision causing serious injury to another which results in their death. The prosecution must prove the driver failed to exercise a degree of care a responsible person should execute under the circumstances.
  • Gross negligence is different from ordinary negligence as it involves the driver's mental state. The act has to be proven to be more than ordinary negligence and reckless enough in nature to create a high risk of death to another human. It must be proven the driver's conduct was a gross deviation from what a responsible person would execute and amounted to the total disregard for human life.

You can also face Vehicular Manslaughter charges if the person who has died was riding as your passenger. If it is considered criminal negligence which resulted in the death of another, it is vehicular manslaughter.

How Vehicular Manslaughter is Proven

If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges, the prosecution must prove you guilty of Penal Code 192(c) under the following elements beyond all reasonable doubt:

  • You acted in an unreasonable fashion which could reasonably be expected to create a risk to another human.
  • You committed a traffic violation or misdemeanor while operating a motor vehicle and are criminally negligent for the results of the accident.
  • Another person lost their life due to your actions whether as a passenger in your vehicle, another vehicle, or a pedestrian.

Consequences for Vehicular Manslaughter

If convicted of a driving-related killing in the state of California there are varying consequences depending on the circumstances. The possible convictions can include:

  • Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter carries up to one year in jail with a possible fine of $1,000.
  • Gross Vehicular Manslaughter can either carry misdemeanor or felony charges. If charged as a felony, you could face up to six years in prison.
  • Insurance Fraud Vehicular Manslaughter is proven if the act was conducted for the purpose to commit insurance fraud. Motorists convicted of this act face up to ten years in prison.
  • Negligent Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated can be charged as a misdemeanor or negligent vehicular manslaughter. If convicted of negligent vehicular manslaughter, you could face a one-year jail sentence and a fine up to $1,000. If convicted as a felony, you could face up to four years in jail.
  • Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated is considered a felony and carries up to a ten-year prison sentence. If the incident occurs after you've already had a prior vehicular manslaughter or DUI conviction, you could be facing 15 years to life in prison.
  • Murder conviction as a driving-related death carries a second-degree murder charge rather than a first degree and carries a 15-year prison sentence.

If you are convicted of any form of vehicular manslaughter, you are likely to lose your driver's license, and the judge can impose probation or other penalties. If you have been convicted with a hit-and-run charge along with the vehicular manslaughter, you could be facing an additional five years being added to your prison sentence.

If a DUI conviction has been combined with your vehicular manslaughter charge, your penalties become more severe. Ordinary negligence, when combined with a DUI conviction, can result in a 4-year prison sentence. A misdemeanor-level vehicular manslaughter charge coupled with a DUI automatically creates prosecution under VC 23153 as well.

Vehicular Manslaughter when Connected to DUI

California Penal Code 191.5a PC is a crime of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This charge is always considered a felony and carries a 4 to a 10-year prison sentence. If other persons were seriously injured during the accident, you could be facing an additional 3 to 6-year sentence. This conviction goes on your criminal record and is considered part of California's Three Strike Law.

You cannot be charged separately for the DUI if connected to a vehicular manslaughter charge as it is part of the same charges. This charge can, however; be considered a second-degree murder known as 'Watson Murder.' California Penal Code 187 is defined as the unlawful killing of another human or a fetus with malice.

This charge is established by proving you were aware of the dangers caused while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and chose to drive anyway. The prosecution will look for previous DUI convictions as this establishes you were aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated. If convicted under these charges, you will face a 15-year to life sentence in prison and could be fined up to $10,000.

How to Defend a Vehicular Manslaughter Charge

If you or someone you love is facing vehicular manslaughter charges, it is vital for your future to seek legal counsel. You will need the experience of an attorney familiar with California law to protect your future from possible criminal prosecution. Some of the defense strategies possible are:

  • Death was not due to your actions. It may be true that you were driving and committed a traffic violation, but it does not prove you caused the death of another human. There could be circumstances justifying the other driver was also responsible for negligence, or there could have been weather conditions that contributed to the accident. The prosecution is going to have to prove beyond any reasonable doubt; you were the cause of the victim's death.
  • There were no illegal actions or criminally negligent acts committed. Often when a death results from a vehicle accident, the loved ones of the victim want to put the blame on another. The death could be attributed to the fact that a crash occurred that was beyond your control or actions.
  • The accident was not the result of gross negligence. If you are charged with felony-level vehicular manslaughter, it may be possible to prove your actions did not contain utter disregard for human life. Having the charges reduced to a misdemeanor will significantly reduce the sentence you could be facing.
  • You were not driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. There have been incidents where a vehicle was involved in a crash and, the owner of the vehicle is charged for the crash solely due to being the owner. If you have borrowed your vehicle, or it has been stolen, you will need to provide an alibi to prove you were not present when the incident occurred.
  • Under California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI)430 it is possible to prove that while you were to some degree involved in the accident, your behavior is not directly responsible for the events that occurred.

Why Legal Counsel is Necessary

Vehicular Manslaughter charges have you facing long-term consequences. You need an attorney on your side who understands all California Laws and has the experience to see you through this challenging time. Sentencing can be significant ranging from two years to twenty years in a state prison, and you want someone on your side who understands how scary this life-changing event is affecting you.

Ross Howell Sobel is an experienced defense lawyer who knows California Law and the court system. He is uniquely qualified and has extensive experience working with individuals facing criminal charges. Criminal proceedings can be complicated, and it is vital for your future to work with an attorney who has a proven track record of success. Attorney Ross Howell Sobel is available to answer your questions and meet with you personally to discuss your options moving forward, call us now at 818-582-2350 to schedule your free consultation.  

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