It is quite sad how car accidents are claiming innocent lives on our roads. If you happen to cause vehicular manslaughter, there are harsh consequences that follow. This includes imprisonment and paying hefty fines. That’s why it is recommended to seek a professional criminal lawyer who will help in handling such cases. If you want a reliable lawyer with a credible reputation, you should consider the Orange County Criminal Lawyer.
Legal Definition of Vehicular Manslaughter in California
Under California Penal Code 192, vehicular manslaughter is an act of driving a vehicle negligently, leading to the unlawful death of another person.
Under Penal Code 192, other offenses fall in this statute. This includes:
- Vehicular manslaughter with extreme carelessness – Penal Code 192(c) (1)
- Minor vehicular manslaughter – Penal Code 192(c)(2)
- Vehicular manslaughter with the intention of financial gain – Penal Code 192(c)(3)
Penal Code 192(c)(1) Vehicular Manslaughter with Gross Negligence
Under Penal Code 192(c)(1), vehicular homicide with gross carelessness is an act of driving a vehicle with extreme negligence of the lives of the occupants or other people using the road, leading to their unlawful death. For a prosecutor to convict you with this offense, there are a couple of factors that he or she must prove. These factors are considered as elements of the crime, and are as follows:
- You perpetrated a minor offense or infringement, or else acted a legal action but in a way that could have caused death, while you were driving
- The kind of action that you did risked other people’s lives under the situation at hand
- You did the act with extreme negligence
- As a result of your extreme carelessness and the action, you led to the demise of someone else
To understand these elements clearly, you should take note of a couple of terms. These terms are as follows:
A Misdemeanor, Legal Action that Led to the Death of Someone Else, Infraction
For one to be blameworthy of vehicular manslaughter, one should either perpetrate a crime that does not stand to be a felony, meaning that it is an infraction of a misdemeanor or undertake an action that is lawful but would cause death to another person.
Please note, for a prosecutor to convict you with vehicular manslaughter, you need to be committing an infraction or a misdemeanor to make the prosecution valid. However, if you were conducting a felonious activity, the prosecutor might sentence you with a California murder based on the felony-murder law. An example of a vehicular manslaughter charge includes a car accident that killed someone and resulted from an infraction such as texting.
Extreme negligence carries a lot of weight when it comes to defining vehicular manslaughter. If your prosecutor is unable to prove that your conduct was extreme negligence, you will become guilty of a normal or minor vehicular manslaughter.
Gross negligence can be defined as something that is more than usual neglect, lack of attention, and error in analysis. Therefore, gross carelessness occurs when one acts recklessly, creating significant bodily injury, in which a thoughtful person would have concluded that such action will create the risk.
The situation would become extremely negligent if the person acted differently from what a careful and sober person would do while in such a case. Therefore, the action indicates that one disregarded human life since he knew the consequences that follow out of his or her actions.
Led to the Death of Someone Else
For one to be charged under the Penal Code 192(c)(1), the extremely negligent action should lead to the death of another person. For that reason, death should be the immediate, natural, and feasible result of your actions. In that case, death should be directly associated with gross negligence. If other factors played a part in the death, extreme misconduct should play a substantial role in the killing to make this aspect valid enough.
Penal Code 192(c)(2)- Minor Vehicular Manslaughter
Penal Code 192(c)(2) defines the facts about ordinary or minor vehicular manslaughter. Under this statute, details of the crimes include:
- Committing a minor offense or infringement, or else committed a legal action while driving
- The action would impose danger on another person’s life under particular circumstances
- The act was undertaken out of ordinary negligence
- The action led to the demise of someone else
The difference between minor vehicular manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is the fact that one requires gross carelessness to make the offense valid. Under this penal code, ordinary negligence is defined as the failure to reason out and prevent logically foreseeable infliction from occurring to another person.
Penal Code 192(c)(3) – Vehicular Manslaughter to gain Financially
Under this penal code, the description of the offense is as follows:
- You caused or participated in a crash knowingly while you were driving
- You did so to make a fraudulent insurance claim to gain financially
- You had the purpose of defrauding the insurance or someone else based on your actions
- Your action led to the death of someone else
In simple terms, killing someone accidentally after deliberately ruining a vehicle to perpetrate insurance fraud is considered as vehicular manslaughter.
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter in California
The kind of penalties that apply in vehicular manslaughter in California depends on the type of offense that you are implicated in perpetrating. Therefore, the penalties that apply vary in the following way:
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter With Extreme Carelessness
Vehicular manslaughter with extreme carelessness is considered as a wobbler. The prosecutor can convict you with a minor offense or felony based on the details related to your crime and your criminal records.
If the prosecutor charges you with a minor offense, the kind of penalties that apply include:
- Misdemeanor or summary probation
- Imprisonment in county prison for a maximum of one year
- Fine that can reach a maximum of $1,000
If the prosecutor charges you with a felony vehicular manslaughter, the possible penalties that apply are:
- Felony or formal probation
- Imprisonment in the State prison for two, four or six years
- A fine that can reach a maximum of $10,000
Penalties for Minor Vehicular Manslaughter
Minor vehicular manslaughter has the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor or summary probation
- Imprisonment in county prison for a maximum of one year
- Fines that can reach a maximum of $1,000
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter with the Intention of Financial Gain
Vehicular manslaughter to gain financially is considered a felony in California. The kind of penalties that apply include:
- Imprisonment in state prison for four years, six years or ten years
- Fines that can reach up to a maximum of $10,000
Suspension of Your Driver’s License
If you are sentenced with vehicular manslaughter with extreme negligence or vehicular manslaughter with financial gain, the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) might decide to revoke your license. Your license will be revoked for three years, and you can only have it reinstated after the three years are over.
If you are found driving with a revoked license, you will face further charges based on Vehicle Code 14601VC. The kind of consequences that follow depends on why your license was suspended. Generally, the types of penalties that apply include imprisonment in a county jail between five days to six months and a fine that ranges between $300 to $1,000.
Conditions for Misdemeanor or Summary Probation
Once you are put on probation, it means that you can serve the probation rather than going to prison. However, there are a couple of conditions that the judge imposes on the perpetrator that one should follow. The requirements for summary probation are as follows:
- Pay the fines as charged by the court
- Complete community services
- Participate in a group or individual therapy
- Avoid violating any law
Offenders who are under summary probation have to report to the court rather than a probate officer. Also, violating any of the above-stated conditions might lead to the revocation of the probation. This subjects the offender to imprisonment as charged by the court.
Conditions for Felony Probation
If you are handled formal probation by the judge, you need to consider a couple of terms. These conditions are as follows:
- Payment of restitution
- Meeting with the probate officer as expected by the law, which is usually one month
- Participating in community service
- Attending group or individual therapy sessions
- Avoiding any association with a gang
- Agreeing not to violate any laws
- Agreeing to an impromptu search in your property by the police without a legal warrant
Violation of any of the conditions provided above will subject you to serving the initial penalties that you were convicted with.
Legal Defenses for Vehicular Manslaughter
Any attorney will employ a couple of legal defenses to win a case. The kind of defenses that an attorney decides to rely on depends on the circumstances of the offense. Some of the common legal defenses that your attorney can use are:
Your Actions were Not Negligent
For an accusation under vehicular negligence to apply, you must conduct a negligent act while driving. There are a lot of decisions that one has to make, which can be bad ones as well while driving. However, if you decided similar to what a reasonable person would do, the actions do not count as negligent. For that reason, you did not disregard the safety or life of your vehicle occupants. You can acquit you from vehicular manslaughter charges if you prove this fact.
You Acted with Ordinary Negligence
This kind of legal defense does not entirely acquit you from vehicular manslaughter. However, it can be an ideal strategy to reduce vehicular manslaughter with extreme negligence to ordinary vehicular manslaughter. Your attorney has to prove that your actions were not done in extreme disregard of the lives of the people around you to make this legal defense valid.
Your Actions were Not Directly Associated With the Death
Acknowledging the cause of the death in vehicular manslaughter can help you determine whether the case at hand is viable enough. For instance, if you were changing lanes and accidentally hit another vehicle, which the driver was texting, your negligence action does not associate with the cause of the driver’s death. In such a case, you can argue that your action (changing lanes) did not cause death, but resulted from the distracted driving of the other driver.
In this kind of legal defense, you will not be entirely acquitted from your charges, but can also help in reducing them to a misdemeanor or ordinary vehicular manslaughter.
Your Actions were Reasonable Under an Emergency Circumstance
Particular circumstances might arise while driving, leading to a collision. For instance, if your accident was caused by an action to avoid hitting an animal, leading to a crash, you cannot be blamed entirely for the accident. Such a situation is considered an emergency, and you probably did what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation.
If your intention was not negligent, it means that they do not rise to a negligent level, meaning that you can be acquitted from vehicular manslaughter charges.
Outside Factors Contributed to the Accident
Weather conditions such as rain, fog, snow, and dust can contribute to an accident. Therefore, if you were accused based on such situations, you can prove your innocence to the court and have the charges dropped. However, you must have acted reasonably to avoid risking the lives of other people to make this legal defense viable enough. This indicates that you would have made all necessary attempts to avoid an accident, such as slowing down, turning on your taillights, and stopping the vehicle in worse conditions.
Someone might decide to frame you with an accusation of vehicular manslaughter due to jealousy, seeking revenge, or hatred. In such an instance, you need to be to prove to the court that your actions were not correct but were framed. In most cases, you would probably have been involved in an accident, but someone else tries to falsely accuse you of killing someone else due to your negligent driving.
Mistaking of Facts
There are a couple of details that come along with an accident, especially if it involves a couple of vehicles. You can be easily mistaken as the principal offender behind the accident. Such a situation is considered as a mistaking of facts and can easily incriminate you with the offense if you are not careful enough.
Your attorney should evaluate the police report, the statement from witnesses and video footage to determine the actual perpetrator behind the offense. Your attorney can help you disapprove of such situations.
In case you were forced to commit vehicular manslaughter to gain financial advantage, there are possibilities of being acquitted from your charges. However, you need to prove to the court that the action was entirely triggered by coercion or threat, and you had no intention of committing the crime whatsoever.
Intoxication is not usually a reliable legal defense strategy but can work in one way or another. If one intentionally intoxicated you intending to gain financially from insurance reimbursement, you can rely on this defense strategy to disapprove of your charges. However, you should prove that you had no intention whatsoever of intoxicating yourself to commit vehicular manslaughter.
Several crimes are charged together with Penal Code 192 (c). These crimes are either charged along with vehicular manslaughter or are accused instead of the respective offense. These crimes are as follows:
Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated – Penal Code 191.5
This kind of offense is separate from the Penal Code 192 (c). It only applies if the cause of death was a DUI of alcohol or drugs. This offense can result from gross negligence or ordinary negligence.
DUI means that you were driving when:
- Under the influence - Vehicle Code 23152(a)
- Had a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0,08% or more as provided in Vehicle Code 23152(b)
- Had a BAC level of 0.05% or more, and you are below 21 years
- You were under the influence of drugs as defined in Vehicle Code 23152(f)
If you caused vehicular manslaughter under intoxication without gross carelessness, the offense is considered a wobbler. The possible penalties that apply include:
- County jail sentence for a maximum of one year for a misdemeanor
- Imprisonment for sixteen months, two or three years in state prison if charged with a felony
If the prosecutor charges you with gross carelessness vehicular manslaughter while exhilarated, you will be prosecuted with a felony charge. Such an offense carries state imprisonment for four, six, or ten years.
Please note, Penal Code 192(c) vehicular manslaughter is considered as a lesser charge for Penal Code 191.5 vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Therefore the prosecutor can convict you with Penal Code 192(c) if he or she cannot prove that you were exhilarated beyond doubt to make the case valid.
DUI murder or Watson Murder is a charge that applies instead of Penal Code 192(c) vehicular manslaughter. A prosecutor might convict you with Watson killing if you led to the death of someone else while DUI and the following facts are accurate:
- You were previously charged with DUI offenses
- You have gone through an education program about the risks of DUI, and you were given Watson advice during your previous DUI.
If you are charged with Watson murder, the potential penalties that apply are under California murder laws.
Fleeing a Scene of Accident after an Accident – Penal Code 192.5 (e)
Under Penal Code 192.5(e), it is unlawful to escape from the scene of the accident once you have caused an accident. This kind of offense is considered as a sentence enhancement and can impose an addition of five years in prison. The enhancement only works if the driver is found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and admits guilt of fleeing from the scene of the accident or the police found him or her already fled from the scene of the accident.
Intentional Accident – Penal Code 550(a)
Under Penal Code 550(a), it is unlawful to cause an accident to do insurance fraud. If the accident led to the death of someone else, you could end up being charged with manslaughter or murder charges based on the circumstances of the accident and case.
Difference Between Vehicular Manslaughter and Homicide
There can be considerable confusion between vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide in a car accident. It is recommended to know the difference between the two terms in case you find it hard to differentiate them.
In vehicular murder, there must be aforethought of committing a crime, which is considered as a malice intent. Therefore, for vehicular homicide to take place, you must have planned for the death or predetermined how it will take place, and went on to execute it.
On the other hand, vehicular manslaughter is unintended and results from negligent action, as defined in the penal code. The action could be voluntary or involuntary but stands to be the main reason behind the death. As defined in the Penal Code 192, you should commit a minor offense for the case to be considered as vehicular manslaughter.
Find An Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me
It can be stressful to handle an accusation related to vehicular manslaughter. There are quite severe punishments that follow if the prosecutor successfully charges you with such a case. Therefore, one should seek a criminal lawyer to help in handling the situation and offer legal advice as well. The level of experience and reputation defines whether an attorney is reliable or not. We at the Orange County Criminal Lawyer have the best attorneys serving within Orange County, CA, and are ready to help you with your vehicular manslaughter case. Contact us today at 714-262-4833 and speak to one of our attorneys for professional legal help.