Vehicular Manslaughter

Ventura Vehicular Manslaughter Lawyer

Understanding Manslaughter Charges

CA Penal Code § 192 states that manslaughter involves the unlawful killing of a person without malice. There are three types of manslaughter: voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. Voluntary manslaughter may be confused with murder, since both crimes occur when the perpetrator willfully causes the death of another human being. However, CA penal Code § 192(a) states that voluntary manslaughter must occur in the heat of passion or during a sudden quarrel. Murder involves malice and premeditation.

Involuntary manslaughter does not involve the purposeful killing of another human being. A person commits involuntary manslaughter when he/she kills someone by accident while committing another crime. CA Penal Code § 192(b) states that involuntary manslaughter only occurs when the accompanying crime is not a felony offense. Like voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter does not involve the presence of malice. Additionally, involuntary manslaughter excludes any death that involves a motor vehicle.

What is vehicular manslaughter?

Also known as "vehicular homicide," vehicular manslaughter occurs when a driver unlawfully kills another person while driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are two types of DUI-related vehicular manslaughter: gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and standard vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Both of these offenses involve drunk driving and are punishable by extensive prison sentences and exorbitant fines. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is made unlawful by California Penal Code § 191.5(a) and §191.5(b).

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is similar to involuntary manslaughter. However, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated involves two additional elements: 1) a motor vehicle, and 2) alcohol impairment. This crime may involve an act of negligence, but does not involve "gross negligence." In order to convict you of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the prosecutor must demonstrate the following facts:

  • You operated a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to California Vehicle Code §23152
  • You simultaneously committed an unlawful or dangerous act (not a felony)
  • Your action caused the death of another human being (without malice or premeditation)

The term "negligence," in relation to CA Penal Code 191.5(b), occurs when the driver commits a careless act that a reasonable person would not have performed. Similarly, negligence can occur when a person fails to do something that a reasonable person would do.

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest. Prior criminal convictions can result in a felony charge. If convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, you may be subject to a $1,000 fine and one year in jail. A felony conviction can result in the following consequences:

  • Sixteen months, two years, or four years in prison
  • Three to six additional years in prison for each surviving victim (who sustained an injury)
  • A $1,000 fine

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

According to CA Penal Code §191.5(a), gross vehicular manslaughter occurs when a drunk driver causes the death of another person while committing an act of gross negligence. Although standard vehicular manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter are very similar, the presence of gross negligence differentiates between the two crimes. In order to convict you of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, prosecutors must demonstrate that you drove under the influence of alcohol or drugs; that you committed an act of gross negligence; and that the negligent act was responsible for the death of another person.

Gross vehicular manslaughter is a felony offense, punishable by four, six, or ten years in prison. If you were convicted of two or more prior DUI offenses, or one prior DUI manslaughter charge, you may be subject to a life sentence in a California State prison. The term "gross negligence" usually refers to an action that indicates a general disregard or indifference toward human life. Like standard negligence, this can also refer to an individual who fails to take action. The distinction between standard negligence and gross negligence can only be determined in a court of law.

Does vehicular manslaughter always involve DUI?

Under CA Penal Code § 192(c), vehicular manslaughter does necessitate drunk driving. A driver can be accused of vehicular manslaughter for committing an act of negligence that does not involve alcohol. For example, a motorist could speed excessively, accidentally hit another vehicle, and cause the death of another driver. While the driver's actions may be considered negligent, they did not involve drug or alcohol impairment. CA Penal Code § 192(c) also refers to accidents caused by a driver for the purpose of financial gain. For instance, an individual could be charged with vehicular manslaughter under this law if he/she knowingly caused an accident to collect insurance money. This is also a crime under the automobile insurance fraud laws of California. Acts of negligence that do not involve drugs or alcohol include:

  • Speeding
  • Texting while driving
  • Talking on the phone
  • Driving through a crosswalk

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