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Vehicular Manslaughter Charges In California


Vehicular manslaughter has to do with somebody driving a vehicle and killing another person.  Now obviously, that’s way too simple of a definition because that happens all the time on California’s roads and people aren’t charged with a very serious crime like vehicular manslaughter. It’s defined under California Penal Code Section 191.5.

So, the question becomes, what will it take to get a situation where someone is driving a car, gets in some sort of an accident or causes some sort of an accident and another person is killed, to charge that person with vehicular manslaughter, and there’s a number of different ways.

Alcohol and Drunk Driving

One way is if you have alcohol and are driving drunk and you do something unlawful and you kill another person.  Not only can you be charged with vehicular manslaughter, you can also be charged with attempted murder, and those are the two crimes that the prosecutors are waffling back-and-forth between when it comes to a death involving alcohol on the road.

Another way is if you’re just simply driving in a wanton, reckless manner in a higher degree of culpability of just mere negligence.  If somebody just makes a mistake and there’s an accident and someone dies, they’re not likely to charge that person with felony vehicular manslaughter.

But, if on the other hand, a person is going 100 miles an hour down the street and runs a red light and kills somebody, even though they’re not intoxicated, that person could certainly be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter.

Severe Legal Penalties

And again, that’s another situation now where we’re seeing more and more where if you’re driving recklessly and dangerously enough, the prosecutors will even elevate a situation where there’ s no alcohol and the death results on the road from vehicular manslaughter to attempted murder.  I see those cases filed all the time.

So, vehicular manslaughter is a very serious crime.  If it’s charged as a felony, you’re looking at time in prison, loss of your license, probation or parole and a host of other punishments that would obviously relate to whatever it is that you did.

But the good news is, a lot of times I see these cases over-filed.  I also see defenses.  Certainly, a defense to vehicular manslaughter would be what we call causation.  Meaning, I didn’t cause the accident; somebody else caused the accident; they caused their own death or a third-party caused the accident, so I’m not going to be responsible for a death, and if you’re not responsible for the death, then how are they going to get you for vehicular manslaughter.  So, causation is definitely one of the potential defenses when someone is charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Formulating a Defense Strategy

Other defenses obviously center around whatever happened and the facts particular to the case that is pending against you or a loved one.  That’s why we get you in right away.  We sit down.  We go over everything.  Then we can start to formulate the defense strategy or plan to deal with the criminal case. Contact our California criminal defense lawyers to review your case.

Sometimes that strategy is trying to assert a complete defense, find the person not guilty, win the case and get them out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.

Other times, there is some evidence that you were culpable and you did something wrong.  Either we’re trying to get a lesser charge or trying to keep you out of prison or jail.  Again, it just depends on the facts and circumstances.  It depends on what we decide after the meeting is the best course of action based on your particular set of circumstances.

So, pick up the phone.  Let my twenty-five years of experience work for you.  Let’s get this matter dealt with as swiftly and successfully as possible.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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