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Criminal Charges Related to Accident Causing Death in California

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jun 13, 2020

Learn About Criminal Charges Stemming from an Accident That Results from the Death on the Road

Over the course of the last 26 years I've handled hundreds of cases involving accidents where deaths occur.  Some of these cases have been handled at the civil level with no criminal charges being prosecuted against my clients.

Other times, the prosecutors have filed various charges related to the accident, ranging from involuntary manslaughter to vehicular manslaughter to all the way up to murder and sometimes a felony DUI.

It really just relates to what the person was doing at the time that the accident and the death occurred and why the death occurred.  Cause is sometimes a big issue.  In other words, sometimes people get into an accident, a death may occur, and it may not be the fault of my client.

Maybe somebody else caused the accident but they find out that my client is intoxicated in some way either from marijuana, alcohol, prescription medication or illegal drugs.  Sometimes the client is speeding at an excessive rate, runs a red light — otherwise reckless driving and a death occurs.

Criminal Negligence vs. Civil Negligence

These are all circumstances where the prosecutors — depending on what happened — can file anything from involuntary manslaughter up to murder and in between — vehicular manslaughter.

Criminal Charges Related to Accident Causing Death in California

This is really going to depend on the level of dangerous activity the person is engaging in when the death occurred.  In order words, speed, reckless driving, alcohol-related offenses, drug-related offenses.

They're going to look at all the circumstances surrounding what happened and make a judgment call on whether or not the case should be filed as involuntary manslaughter which is usually some sort of a negligent accident.

However, the conduct by the defendant is enough to be criminal negligence versus civil negligence where they wouldn't file anything against the person.  If the person is driving recklessly in a grossly negligent manner and a death occurs, they could file vehicular manslaughter which would usually be filed as a felony.  The person could be facing prison time under those circumstances.

Second-Degree Murder Charges

Then finally, there's a number of different ways for them to file a second-degree murder charge where the person would be looking at 15 to life in prison.  One way would be wanton disregard for human life and I've seen this come from drinking alcohol or using some sort of drugs.

Whether they be prescription drugs, marijuana or illegal drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and putting yourself in a position where you're so intoxicated that you end up killing somebody under very bad circumstances.

I've even seen people charged who are driving 100 miles an hour through a residential neighborhood, run a red light and kill somebody.  I've seen those people charged with second-degree murder because that behavior is so wanton and so dangerous the prosecutors believe that they can charge that type of a charge.

I've had many jury trials where I'm battling between vehicular manslaughter and second-degree murder.  Huge difference in the sentencing.  You can't in some circumstances argue for a complete not guilty because you obviously have evidence that your client did something illegal and they're going to get convicted of something.

Contact Hedding Law Firm for Help

If you just try to get a complete not guilty, sometimes the jury is angered by that if the person is trying to get off from everything.  So, sometimes you have to concede certain things.

You're probably going to lose them anyway, so this is all strategy decisions that you have to talk about with your criminal defense attorney.

I have these conversations all the time.  We look at the evidence.  We weigh it on both sides, and we decide what the best thing to do is for you or your loved one. If you need help, pick up the phone now.  Don't be afraid.  Get somebody on your side that will fight for you.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436.  Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.