California Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
When an accident is caused due to DUI, the crime is referred to as a DUI with injury. When the injuries lead to death, the crime is called vehicular manslaughter. The laws relating to vehicular manslaughter are outlined in California's penal code section 191.5 for manslaughter. In order for a vehicular manslaughter charge to be placed, three things must be proven:
- The driver was intoxicated – The driver must have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It could also be alcohol impairment. For the purposes of vehicular manslaughter, a person must be considered under the influence based on any of these laws:
- Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC a driver can be charged with being intoxicated even if their BAC was under the legal limit if they displayed other signs of being impaired.
- Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC If the driver's BAC was tested within three hours of the accident and the results show a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater, they are considered to have been impaired. The same rules apply for drugs in the body.
- Vehicle Code 23153 VC This law uses the same rules as 23152 but applies to DUI accidents that result in injury. You cannot be charged for a DUI crime and vehicular manslaughter for the same event.
- Vehicle Code 23140 VC Drivers who are under the age of 21 and have a BAC of .05 or more are considered intoxicated by California law.
- The driver was negligent – Because the driver was impaired, it must be proven that they made a driving error or neglected to perform some action that lead to an accident. It is hard to prove that an accident was made because of intoxication, so it is generally assumed that legally intoxicated means the driver was also impaired.
- That the negligence led to the victim's death – The accident caused by the intoxicated driver must have directly led to injuries that caused the victim to lose their life. This element leaves room for defense in cases where the victim was not wearing a seat belt, died due to complications from surgery, etc.
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in California
Vehicular manslaughter can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the accident like how recklessly the offender was driving and how intoxicated they were. It also depends on their criminal history and if they had any prior DUI convictions.
Misdemeanors are punishable by the following:
- Up to one year in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
Felony vehicular manslaughter is much more serious. Penalties include:
- 2, 4 or even 6 years in state prison
- Up to 10,000 in fines
Sentences also include license suspension or revocation, probation, community service and more. Not to mention a felony conviction on a person's criminal record will affect their life long term. Schools and businesses perform criminal record background checks when making hiring and admissions decisions. A felony conviction can make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter in California
If the driver of a vehicle was intoxicated and also committed a crime which resulted in death, that person will face charges for Gross Vehicular Manslaughter. Gross Vehicular Manslaughter can occur when basically two crimes were committed. The first being DUI and the second being some offense that lead to a serious accident resulting in death.
The second offense can be anything from texting while driving, to driving the wrong way down a one way street, anything that shows the driver was exercising gross negligence.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter due to intoxication is one of the most serious crimes a person can face because it involves the loss of life and an offender that showed disregard for others; safety. The penalties for a Gross Vehicular Manslaughter conviction include:
- 4, 6 or even 10 years in state prison
- If you have a prior manslaughter charges or more than one prior DUI convictions, you could face 15 years to life in jail.
California Vehicular Manslaughter Defense
One of the most unfortunate types of DUI charges involves vehicular manslaughter. If a driver is accused of driving while intoxicated and causing an accident where a life is lost, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. In order for a vehicular manslaughter charge to be placed it must be proven that the driver was intoxicated, that they were driving the vehicle and that the intoxication lead to an accident which, in turn, led to the victim's death. Vehicular manslaughter is a very serious crime and can result in years of imprisonment.
We can also allege that you were not the cause of the accident. For example, even if it cannot be disproven that our client had an elevated BAC while driving. If another vehicle was the cause of the accident and therefore the victim's death, our client can be charged with DUI but not manslaughter.