Under Penal Code 192(c) California Law, vehicular manslaughter is a criminal offense involving a driver killing another person (pedestrian, cyclist, or passenger) or another driver, due to the driver's negligence or recklessness. The negligence could be as a result of either violating a traffic law or doing a lawful act while driving, resulting in death. The criminal charges for vehicular Homicide are severe, and it affects the offender's life and freedom. If convicted, there is a potential of spending the rest of your life in jail. It is a catastrophic situation that draws a thin line between life and death. You need a defense attorney to have your case lessened or dismissed. Thus, you should hire the right attorney from The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney to assist you in getting a fair judgment.
How Does The Law Define Vehicular Manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter involves causing death due to criminal negligence while driving. It depends on the driver's degree of oversight, to be charged in a court of law for vehicular manslaughter, which is also known as vehicular Homicide. These charges have specified circumstances which support this crime. For instance, Jonathan, who is driving, uses his mobile phone to send a message to his wife, who is at home, due to his ignorance, he hits and kills a pedestrian. This is one of the instances that Jonathan used negligence to cause death. California state gives several other circumstances where the driver is accused of vehicular Homicide. They include:
1. Gross Negligence
This happens when a driver acts in a careless manner that risks death. The jury will use facts of crime elements such as mental status and conducts of the offender's case to make a judgment. Vehicular Homicide relate to gross negligence PC 192(c) section (1), has four components:
- While operating a vehicle, you committed an unlawful act or lawful act that might have caused death - This law applies to the first time convicts of a misdemeanor. If you have ever been convicted of a crime before, then you are most likely going to be accused of felony murder. Instances of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence include using a mobile phone, driving at high speed, or losing control hence killing.
- The act posed as a threat to living people: for instance, driving a car dangerously without consideration for other road users. This is an act that poses a danger to life.
- The action was carried out of gross negligence. This law shows that you blatantly took the initiative that automatically death was sure and acted in an unbelievable way that the act disregards life.
- The action caused another person's life - For Vehicular Homicide and gross negligence to remain relevant, and the action must clearly show it was probably because of your carelessness. For instance, you were driving in a hurry and missed a crossing pedestrian by a whisker. The pedestrian gets shocked and suffers from cardiac arrest and later dies. You may not have directly participated in the pedestrian's death, but you may be found responsible for vehicular Homicide brought about by gross negligence.
Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter contains all the above four elements under PC 192(c)(2) with an addition of the following critical component:
- The action was out of ordinary negligence, meaning that the action happened due to motorist carelessness, for instance, the failure of the motorist to see the 8-sided red stop traffic sign. The motorist kills a pedestrian at the crosswalk. This is a misdemeanor, where the driver failed to act responsibly and obey the traffic rules to protect the pedestrian from unworthy death.
For example, a young boy over speeds down on a steep road and crashes another car that causes the life of the other car driver.
3. Financial Gain
Financial gain is a particular category of vehicular manslaughter under PC 192(c)(3). It happens when the driver unintentionally kills another person. The primary purpose was to wreck the vehicle to claim insurance for the car. Unfortunately, a person dies in the process. This crime will apply if:
- While driving, you knowingly caused a collision.
- You purposefully acted in your knowledge to request a financial gain from insurance.
- Your action was intended to defraud any insurance company or the party involved.
- The operation of the collision resulted in multiple deaths.
A good example is when a man who is financially straining drives into a stop sign at high speed, intending to wreck the car. He hoped to get compensation from the insurance company and, in the long run, hits and kills a passer-by.
Driving That Result in Vehicular Manslaughter
Vehicular manslaughter is a criminal offense that involves the death of someone else besides the driver. Almost all the incidents are as a result of the following types of vehicular behaviors.
Negligence is an unlawful conduct that involves carelessness or the distraction of a driver while operating the vehicle. For instance, a driver who has a sight problem fails to wear mandatory glasses out of ordinary negligence. On the way, the driver causes an accident that kills another person. In this case, the driver is at fault for vehicular Homicide.
2. Gross Negligence
Gross negligence is criminal negligence that involves more dangerous conduct than ordinary negligence. A driver is grossly negligent if he or she foresees a substantial risk and fails to perceive it that eventually, the likelihood causes a fatal accident. A good example is when a driver operates a car that he is aware of its brakes' poor condition. The driver knew it was risky but went ahead and drove it, and this is gross negligence.
Some drivers will work deliberately over speed, even if they are not in a hurry. This is reckless driving. The driver is consciously aware of the risk for over speeding but goes ahead and kills someone in an accident.
Drivers who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs commit vehicular Homicide. This is sufficient evidence for conviction when the driver causes the death of another person. A driver might also be under the influence of prescribed drugs if he causes an accident; he has to face the charges. This is because most prescriptions have written side effects, and the doctor gives instructions to the patient. If the driver had used the drugs before, it shows he acted negligently and possibly recklessly.
5. Traffic Rules or Other Statue Violations
Minor traffic rules like illegal turning or passing, speeding, and using mobile devices can trigger vehicular manslaughter charges. For a statute, the state requires windshields to be precise. An accident can result from the driver's inability to see through an obscured windshield. The crime is severe and attracts hefty fines similar to murder in case life was lost.
6. Driving While Sleepy
Most people will drive while tired, and that makes them sleepy while behind the wheel. The drowsiness might have been caused by a medication the driver is undertaking. But when someone dies, the driver might not be charged with vehicular manslaughter. The reason being, the driver was neither acting carelessly or reckless, which are significant contributors to the conviction of criminal charges.
7. Voluntary Vehicular Manslaughter
Voluntary vehicular manslaughter happens when the driver intentionally kills a victim. The crime is called the heat of passion. The circumstances leading to the killing as a result of being emotionally disturbed. The offender uses defensive methods to mitigate the voluntary vehicular manslaughter:
- Provocation - That the victim provoked the defendant causing loss of control and eventually murder.
- Imperfect self-defense - That the victim was armed, and so the offender acted out of self-defense.
- Diminished capacity - That the offender suffered a mental disability at the time of the accident.
Common Defenses for Vehicular Homicide
At times accidents occur while driving unknowingly. However, law enforcers do not respond to these tragedies appropriately when evaluating the cases. Due to the nature of interrogations and interviews from law enforcement, it is essential to have legal representation for these encounters to ensure that only mandatory information is provided.
One manner that the prosecution employs is obtaining a blood sample. It is critical to deflect this by all means possible. With the help of our criminal defense attorney, all steps may assist the opposing party during a trial. To be proven innocent, it would be crucial for you to collect evidence from the collision accident. The evidence collection includes photos, tire tracks, statements from witnesses, though it should be immediately. There is a possibility for the driver not to have been responsible for the death. Unfortunately, unjustified vehicular manslaughter charges occur.
If you have fallen into this situation, our experienced legal team uses several available defenses on your behalf to either fight against, reduce charges, or eliminate the charges against you. One argument and probably the most vital is known as retrograde extrapolation. It happens when the driver is pulled over for whatever reason and takes time to get to the station. A lot of commotion happens in between, including taking a blood test, and the first machine fails. With our help, we can argue the prosecution was not accurate. There are other defenses that we use they include:
- You were not the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident.
- Your actions had no intention to cause death.
- You did not act out of negligence.
- You served in the face of an emergency under unavoidable circumstances.
- At the time of the accident, you were not in the right state of mind.
- You were engaging in a lawful action when the accident occurred.
- The victim did not observe the traffic rules.
- Your response was not in an unreasonable manner.
- The law enforcers violated your rights through an illegal seizure.
- Outside factors such as weather conditions of traffic obstructed and caused the accident.
- Your conduct on the specific case was warranted.
Finally, you should note that obtaining a dismissal can be impossible. However, there are some considerations that the presiding jury takes, like converting jail time to either probation or community service. Keep in mind, too, that you have the right to assert any argument that explains, excuses, or justifies your alleged behavior. If these arguments are persuasive enough, of course, with the help of our attorney, it will be a challenge for the prosecution to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offense.
Possible Penalties For Driving Related Vehicular Manslaughter
Penalties under the California vehicular manslaughter law depends on whether you acted with either gross or ordinary negligence. It will later determine the charges of the offense to either a misdemeanor or a felony. Moreover, demerits points are added to the offender's driving record. Generally, the repercussions of driving-related death depend on specific circumstances. Here are penalties synonymous with driving offenses :
Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter
Just like its name suggests, it has a misdemeanor as a penalty of a maximum one-year jail term as well as a $ 1,000 fine.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter
This is punishable as a wobbler in simple terms, and it can either be punished either by misdemeanors or when complicated as a felony. For a misdemeanor, the defendant can be jailed for one year and pay $ 1,000 as fine. If it is a violation of felony, the penalty for the defaulter in prison is 2-6 years.
Vehicular Manslaughter Insurance Fraud
Defaulter committed Vehicular Manslaughter for financial gain from insurance fraud is a felony. A conviction recieves the punishment of imprisonment for about 4-10 years.
Negligent Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
This crime penalty is treated as a wobbler. In a misdemeanor, it carries a one year jail time and a fine of $ 1,000 maximum. A felony, on the other hand, the punishment is imprisonment of close to 16 months to four years.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
This crime is punished as a felony, and defaulters get to stay in prison for 4-10 years. But, if the convict had before been convicted for a vehicular manslaughter crime, it brings 15 years of life imprisonment.
A murder related to driving generally is a second degree and not a first degree. Second-degree murder is a serious crime that involves intentional and reckless killing. In murder crime, the defaulter is imprisoned for not less than 15 years.
Suspension of Driving License
A typical suspension, if convicted for vehicular manslaughter, is a license suspension. The department of motor vehicles institutes administrative proceedings to determine license restriction. These types of court hearings are known as Negligent Operator Hearings (NOTS). It takes approximately 6 to 8 months after the incident. This duration will vary depending on the offender's case and previous criminal history. The DMV will continue with the hearings regardless of the case dismissal, as outlined in Vehicle Code 14601 VC.
Apart from the penalties provided by the law, there are other court options that the jury can use at the time of sentencing. They include:
- Fleeing the scene that attracts an additional five years in jail.
- Placing probation on the offender and impose a one-year jail term.
- The convict is put on probation with no jail time but orders a community service or work release program.
- The offender gets probation and assigned a probation officer.
When a convict is placed on probation, the judge imposes specific terms of probation that go along with the committed crime by the offender. These terms of probation may include:
- No violation of any other law other than a traffic infraction
- A frequent visit to the probation officer as required by the probation terms usually weekly
- Coordination of any travel with the probation officer before leaving to another state
- Community service performance
- Restitution payment to the victim family
- Sublimation of electronic monitoring
- Class attendance for alcohol, drug and stress management
- No possession or owning firearms
Worse still is when you violate the terms of probation. You will be arrested and jailed until a probation revocation hearing. You may have the opportunity to hire a lawyer or represent yourself, but no right to a speedy trial. The entire decision lies on one judge.
Related Offenses to Vehicular Manslaughter
There are several offenses in which a convict can be charged alongside vehicular Homicide under PC 192(c). However, the related charges may apply instead of the vehicular homicide charges. These associated offenses include:
1. Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated /DUI (Under the Influence) - PC 191.5
A crime committed against vehicular manslaughter differs from the one under the influence. You are proven guilty of PC 191.5, then you go ahead behind the wheel intoxicated and eventually cause the death of another life in the operation.
The offender is said to be intoxicated if he or she has a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of more than 0.08 under 23152 (b) vehicle code. In the case of a minor, the BAC usually is more than 0.05 under 23140 Vehicle Code. Intoxication is also a DUI on drugs. The defendant is guilty of an offense under PC 191.5, treated as a felony offense.
If on DUI, the crime of Vehicular Manslaughter is a wobbler. The convict may be DUI of either alcohol or drugs. The prosecutor may also use charges under PC 192(c), which is a necessarily included offense.
2. DUI Murder/Watson Murder
When you cause another person’s death, because the driver was a DUI of drugs or alcohol, the driver faces murder charges under DUI or murder charges for Watson. The driver would probably face the charges when he or she had before been DUI convicted or had been warned of a Watson previously.
Watson Murder is a second-degree murder and falls under PC 187. The prosecutor must prove the offender acted with insinuated animosity to convict.
Another factor that can lead an offender to face Watson murder prosecute for BAC that exceeds 0.15 %. Moreover, the offender may not evade Watson Murder charges if engaged in exceedingly reckless behavior. For instance, over speeding or joining in a race competition.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove for Vehicular Manslaughter Conviction
To be convicted of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the defender was involved with either of the three sections of the crime under PC 192(c). The three categories of crime are vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, misdemeanors, and financial gain. Let's take a look at each one of them.
Penal Code Section 192(c)(1), Gross Negligence Vehicular Manslaughter
For the prosecutor to convict an offender under this code, he must prove the convict committed a misdemeanor with total negligence or specified circumstances that posed a danger to human life. This can only be justified if the conduct was reckless, and the offender's action caused death to another person.
If the defendant had once been convicted of the crime before, then the second conviction is not vehicular manslaughter but on murder rule charges. The victim’s death should be direct and natural and not a substantial factor. Examples that the prosecutor will use to make a judgment on gross negligence are:
- You were under intoxication.
- You overspend at the collision time.
- You were using your phone while operating the vehicle.
- You struck the pavement, the path meant for pedestrians.
- Your view was clear and no obstruction.
- You had no mandatory prescribed glasses.
- You fell asleep on the wheel.
- You did not stop immediately to help the victim.
PC 192(c)(2), Vehicular Manslaughter Misdemeanor
The prosecutor should prove that your action involved ordinary negligence in being convicted of the crime. The action was dangerous and caused another person’s life. Ordinary negligence is when you neglect the prevention of foreseeable faults that can cause harm to other people.
PC 192(c)(3), Vehicular Manslaughter With Financial Gain
The prosecutor has to prove the defendant guilty for monetary gain if the convict intentionally caused the accident. The primary aim was to claim insurance coverage. In short, you are guilty of vehicular manslaughter if you deliberately wrecked a car and unintentionally to kill somebody.
If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter, you must get a criminal defense attorney to represent your legal rights and help you build a robust legal defense. The prosecution will not stop short of charging you with the harshest sentence possible. You will be charged to the greatest extent, remember you are fighting against the life of a person. You need an attorney from a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to protect your freedom and future well being.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The sentencing and punishing for vehicular manslaughter is severe and life-changing. If you or your loved one has been accused of this offense, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, one who will carefully review facts and laws concerning your case to give you the best representation possible. You need an attorney who understands how prosecutors and judges handle cases similar to yours and provide realistic and helpful advice. At the offices of The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we have dealt with similar cases and emerged successfully. Do not hesitate, contact us at 310-564-2605 for a free consultation on our services, and we will ensure you have the best chance to win your case.