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How Vehicular Manslaughter is Defined Under the Law

As you may know, vehicular manslaughter is a very serious crime. If you are convicted, the consequences will likely affect you for the rest of your life. California Penal Code section 192(c) describes vehicular manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice, meaning that it was not deliberate. If you are accused of causing another person's death while driving your vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act and with gross negligence, you could face prosecution under this law.

You could be charged with vehicular manslaughter if:

  • You commit an unlawful act while driving that is not a felony
  • You commit a lawful act while driving that may cause death
  • Your actions are either negligent or "grossly negligent"
  • Someone is killed as a result of your negligent actions.

Examples of unlawful acts that could lead to vehicular manslaughter charges include texting while driving, speeding or running a red light. If you commit an unlawful act that rises to the level of a felony, however, you could instead be charged with murder.

The Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in California

Since vehicular manslaughter is a "wobbler" in the state of California, you could either be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. This will depend on the exact circumstances of the collision and whether or not you have any prior convictions. Generally, however, the most important factor in determining the severity of your charges will be whether you acted with gross negligence or ordinary negligence.

If it is established that your actions were grossly negligent, the crime will be a wobbler—meaning that you could either be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. If you acted with ordinary negligence, you will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction may include up to one year in county jail, and the penalties for a felony conviction may include two, four or six years in prison.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated – Penal Code 191.5

Although vehicular manslaughter is a very serious crime in and of itself, the charge could be much more serious if you have been accused of committing manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Under California Penal Code section 191.5, this crime is known as "vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated."

You could be charged with DUI vehicular manslaughter if:

  • You drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • You commit a misdemeanor offense or infraction
  • You commit that act with ordinary or gross negligence
  • Someone is killed as a result of your negligent actions.

Again, the severity of the resulting penalties will depend on whether you acted with gross or ordinary negligence. If your actions were grossly negligent, you could be sentenced to state prison for four, six or ten years. If you acted with ordinary negligence, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

Set Up Your Free Initial Consultation Today

When you hire a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, we can work to get these charges reduced or dropped. It may be possible to prove that the cause of death was the other driver's actions, poor road conditions, a mechanical failure or some other factor. Don't speak to investigators without an attorney present, as any statement you make could add to the evidence against you. The sooner you contact our firm, the sooner we can get started on your defense.

Our firm has more than 70 years of combined experience in criminal defense. We know how stressful and frightening it can be to be charged with vehicular manslaughter, and you do have reason for concern. We will work tirelessly to find a swift and effective resolution to your case so that you can move on from this experience with a clean record. It is often possible to negotiate a settlement out of court, but we will not back off from going to trial if that is what it takes to protect your rights and future.

Contact a Los Angeles criminal attorney who can guide you through this difficult experience. Our firm will review your case for free!

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