California Vehicular Manslaughter Laws

California Penal Code § 192(c)(1) describes the conditions in which a person can be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Under the law, vehicular manslaughter includes committing an infraction or a misdemeanor while driving a vehicle in an unlawful or negligent manner that could cause death.

Vehicular manslaughter charges can only apply in cases where the act you were committing while driving was not a felony. If the act you were committing was a felony that killed someone, you might face felony murder charges under California Senate Bill 1437.

Related Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

Charges you could face in addition to your vehicular manslaughter charges include:

California prosecutors may charge you with DUI murder under California Penal Code § 190 if you are a habitual DUI offender and have previously been given a “Watson advisement“ or were educated about the dangers and risks associated with drunk driving.

Elements Needed to Prove Vehicular Manslaughter

For the prosecutor to prove guilt for vehicular manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt, specific elements of the crime will need to be met. These include:

  • The driver committed an infraction or misdemeanor while driving
  • The driver committed a lawful act that had the potential to cause death
  • That the act in question was dangerous to human life
  • The driver acted with gross negligence
  • The driver’s act caused the death of another human

Seth Morris Helps Reduce or Dismiss Your Penalties

The penalties associated with vehicular manslaughter convictions in Oakland, CA are harsh. The consequences you can face under California Penal Code § 192(c) can vary depending on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Many Factors Determine Your Penalties

Vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler crime. This means it can be tried as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether aggravating factors are present. Whether you are accused of acting with ordinary negligence or gross negligence will also determine whether the charges against you are at the misdemeanor or felony level.

Ordinary Negligence

Someone acting with ordinary negligence could face misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges. This is punishable by up to one year in county jail and fines as high as $1,000.

Gross Negligence

However, someone acting with gross negligence could instead face felony vehicular manslaughter charges, punishable by up to six years in state prison and fines as high as $10,000.

Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain

If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter for financial gain under California Penal Code § 192(c)(3), you could spend as much as ten years in state prison and be ordered to pay fines as high as $10,000, as this is always a felony offense.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated

If you are convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, under California Penal Code § 191.5(a), you will face felony penalties, which include up to ten years in prison and fines as high as $10,000.

Collateral Consequences of a Vehicular Manslaughter Conviction

In addition to jail or prison time and court fines, there are many other collateral consequences you can expect to deal with if you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter in Oakland, CA. These include:

  • Being placed on summary or formal probation
  • Being required to install an ignition interlock device (IID)
  • Community service
  • Completion of drug or alcohol treatment programs
  • Completion of DUI school
  • Attendance of regular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings
  • Citizenship or immigration issues
  • Loss of firearm rights
  • Child custody or visitation problems
  • Difficulty finding a good job
  • Trouble finding affordable housing
  • Suspension or revocation of your professional licenses
  • Destroyed relationships with family and friends
  • A tarnished reputation

Suspension or Revocation of Your Driver’s License

When you are found guilty of vehicular manslaughter for financial gain, or vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has the authority to revoke your driver’s license for a minimum of three years.

If you are accused of driving during this period of time, you may face additional criminal charges under California Vehicle Code § 14601.

Morris Law Helps Craft Your Defense Strategy

When you are involved in a car accident that causes the death of another, you may already be feeling devastated. But when you are facing vehicular manslaughter charges, it is your future that you need to think about.

To avoid the harsh consequences, you will need to present a strong defense.

You Did Not Act with Negligence or Gross Negligence

The prosecutor can only convict you if they can show that you were acting with negligence or gross negligence. The definition of gross negligence under California law is more than being inattentive, careless, or making a judgment error.

Gross negligence can only occur if you were acting in a way that created a high risk of severe bodily injury or death and that you knew or should have known that acting in such a way would create a risk of this nature.

Your vehicular manslaughter lawyer may be able to prove that the actions you took were ordinary and that any other person would have reacted in the same way.

Your Negligence Did Not Cause the Victim’s Death

To be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter charges, your negligence must be the direct cause of a victim’s death. For many car accidents, it can be challenging to determine the exact cause of death, especially in situations where multiple parties share fault for the cause of the collision.

Your attorney will work with an accident reconstructionist and review the evidence to challenge the state’s version of events and obtain an acquittal.

You Were Facing Emergency Circumstances and Acted Reasonably

Emergency situations should not warrant vehicular manslaughter charges. Suppose you were driving along I-980 and had to swerve into traffic to avoid hitting a deer. In that case, your attorney may be able to argue that your actions were not negligent because any other person would have made the same judgment call.

Meet with an Oakland, CA Vehicular Manslaughter Lawyer

If you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, it has never been more critical for you to defend yourself. Get an aggressive Oakland, CA vehicular manslaughter lawyer fighting for your freedoms today.

Contact Attorney Seth Morris at Morris Law to further discuss your legal options. Schedule your confidential consultation when you call our office at 510-330-0814 or complete our online contact form.