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Vehicular Manslaughter in Alameda and Contra Costa County

When a driver acts negligently while driving, which results in someone's death, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Driving under the influence (DUI) can increase the likelihood of getting into an automobile accident. If a DUI results in the death of someone, then the impaired driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Vehicular Manslaughter in California

Under California law, a driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if the driver:

  1. Commits an unlawful act (not amounting to a felony);
  2. With negligence, or gross negligence; and
  3. Someone is killed as a proximate cause of the unlawful act.

See Penal Code Section 192.

Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated:

Under California law, a driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if the driver:

  1. While intoxicated;
  2. Commits an unlawful act (not amounting to a felony);
  3. With negligence, or gross negligence; and
  4. Someone is killed as a proximate cause of the unlawful act.

See Penal Code Section 191.5.

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular Manslaughter

California law provides for heavy penalties for vehicular manslaughter, which may depend on the circumstances of each case. In addition to significant fines and fees, a suspended driver's license, and probation, upon conviction, a person can face serious jail time.

  • If the driver acted with ordinary negligence, the charge may be treated as a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of one-year in jail.
  • If the driver acted with gross negligence, they may face a felony or a misdemeanor charge. Under a felony charge for gross vehicular manslaughter, they will face a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

The penalties for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated will depend on the circumstances involved. A conviction for vehicular manslaughter can result in jail time, in addition to fines and fees of up to $10,000, a suspended driver's license, and probation.

  • If the driver acted with ordinary negligence while driving, they may face a felony or a misdemeanor charge. As a misdemeanor, the charge carries a maximum sentence of one-year in jail. However, vehicular manslaughter as a felony may include a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
  • If the driver acted with gross negligence, they will be charged with a felony and may face up to ten years in prison.

Penalties for vehicular manslaughter can be enhanced if you had a prior conviction for a drunk driving.

What is Gross Negligence for Vehicular Manslaughter?

Gross negligence is a higher level or recklessness than ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence is a failure to do what a reasonable person would do in the same situation. For the purposes of manslaughter under the California Penal Code, “gross negligence” is acting with such recklessness that it carries a high risk of death or bodily injury. Being under the influence, by itself is not sufficient to be considered gross negligence, there needs to be some additional negligent actions.

However, in certain circumstances, “gross negligence” will not preclude a murder charge (instead of a manslaughter charge) where the person exhibits a wanton and conscious disregard for life, to support a finding of implied malice.

DUI Murder

In some cases, a driver may be prosecuted under California Penal Code 197, the same as for murder. This is known as “Watson Murder”. This could occur when the driver is a repeat DUI offender, and they have been advised through DUI school that driving under the influence is extremely dangerous and that a DUI that ends up in someone's death can result in murder charges.

“Intoxicated”

For the penalty of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the law applies where the driver is considered to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes both illegal drugs, and legally prescribed medications where they have impaired your ability to drive. In California, for most driver's, the legal limit before they are considered intoxicated is 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

“Death of Another”

The death of another could include the driver or passenger of another car, or even a cyclist or pedestrian. It could also be a passenger in the intoxicated driver's own car.

Defenses to Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

It is a terrible and frightening situation to be involved in a car accident where someone was killed. Car accidents happen, and just because the police report says you were at fault does not mean that you should be convicted for a crime. You may not believe that you were intoxicated at the time, even if the police said you were. You may not have broken the law. You may not have acted with negligence. You should not have to go to jail for an unfortunate accident.

DUI cases can be very complicated. They involve an in-depth understanding of ever-changing laws, and newly developing science and technology, and an understanding of how the science works. For these reasons, it is important to find an experienced and knowledgeable local attorney who specializes in DUI defense. The right lawyer will do a full investigation into your case, to give you every option, and defend your rights and keep you out of jail.

East Bay DUI Defense Attorney

If you are facing charges for vehicular manslaughter, or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, you may not know where to turn. You need to speak to an experienced East Bay DUI defense lawyer. Lynn Gorelick has over 30 years of DUI and criminal defense experience and understands the risks and penalties involved with DUI charges. She understands how to approach the facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail with a clean driving record.

Free Initial Consultation

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We offer a free initial consultation to people accused of DUI and criminal offenses in the Bay Area. Call us at 510-785-1444 to schedule yours.

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