Menu 
Hedding Law Firm

Vehicular Manslaughter – Penal Code Section 191.5



When a death occurs due to drunk driving, reckless driving, speeding, gross negligence or a hit and run you may be charged with the crime of vehicular manslaughter. It is a form of manslaughter that involves the use of an automobile. In California this is a very serious legal offense and is considered either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances involved.

If charged with a misdemeanor then you will be looking at up to 1 year in jail and if it is charged as a felony you could be facing an even longer term of up to ten years in a state prison. In addition, you will also face large fines, probation, driver’s license suspension, driving school and community service.

When it comes to vehicular manslaughter in Los Angeles, there’s a bunch of different levels of it.  First, there’s vehicular manslaughter where somebody dies and the person who was driving was drinking alcohol.

That’s one of the worse vehicular manslaughter charges you can face and you can also be facing a second degree murder charge related to that.  It really is a gray area as to what happens to somebody who is drinking and driving and kills somebody.  Are they going to be charged with second degree murder?  Are they going to be charged with vehicular manslaughter?  Are they going to be charged with both?  So, that’s one area that the prosecutors are very serious about.

Vehicular Manslaughter

But I also see vehicular manslaughter cases being filed where there’s no alcohol.  Let’s say a couple of people decide to race on the street.  Somebody loses command of their car, kills an innocent person.

Both of those people are going to be charged with vehicular manslaughter because it’s foreseeable if you’re going to race on the street that you could end up killing somebody.  So, that type of vehicular manslaughter is also very serious.  It’s a felony.  You’re looking at prison time and bunch of other ramifications.

Then, of course, if you just have a simple accident — you make a mistake, you do something stupid — they can charge some sort of vehicular manslaughter charge against you that is not as serious as a felony where somebody is racing and you’re looking at a lot less time and obviously, a lot better result.

Ordinary Negligence

Another question that people ask when they come is and they’re talking about vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or even that of ordinary negligence which was what I was just talking about, is what do the prosecutors have to prove in order to prove that crime?

And in Los Angeles, they use the CALCRIM 591 Jury Instructions.  591 is a jury instruction dealing with vehicular manslaughter and it basically says that in order for the prosecutors to prove a defendant guilty of vehicular manslaughter, they’re going to have to prove that the defendant drank some sort of alcohol or had some sort of drugs — believe it not, even drugs can be grounds for a vehicular manslaughter charge, or drugs and alcohol combined.

So, they’re going to have to have that in their system.  Their blood alcohol level for purposes of alcohol will have to be a .08 or greater.

The second element is they’re going to have to indicate that while they were under the influence of that alcohol, drug or whatever it is or the combined influence of those, that the defendant also committed some sort of an unlawful act, and number three, the defendant committed the act and it has to be more than ordinary negligence, and obviously that a death resulted.

California Vehicular Manslaughter Involving Alcohol

So, they’re really playing with the words here when you talk about vehicular manslaughter and alcohol.  If your acts are very callous, wanton, you’re running through red lights, going over 100 miles an hour and you’ve got alcohol in your system, you can bet your bottom dollar you’re going to be charged with that most serious vehicular manslaughter and also possibly murder if somebody dies in the process of your driving.

If on the other hand, you just try to beat a light, you’re not going more than the speed limit and somehow you get in a collision and somebody dies, that’s ordinary negligence.

You’re going to be in a much better position.  You obviously don’t want to be in a position where you’re charged with a crime, but it’s real questionable when somebody commits ordinary negligence and another person dies, whether they should even be charged with a crime.

I mean, that could be wrongful death — you were negligent, somebody died.  You’re going to be held responsible.  The person can sue you civilly.  But is it really fair that you also get criminal charges against you?

These are the arguments and battles that I have every day when I’m in the courtrooms in Los Angeles and obviously, I’m trying to do everything I possibly can to convince the prosecutors either to not file the charge, or if they do file the charge, to mitigate it down to something that’s reasonable, that’s fair under the circumstances.

So, if you’ve got a vehicular manslaughter case and need help, come to somebody who’s been doing it twenty-five years and had a lot of success.

Consult With Our Criminal Lawyers

If you have been accused of causing a death due to negligence or a violation of traffic safety laws, it would be in your best interest to hire a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. In some case’s a vehicular manslaughter charge can be upgraded to a murder charge.

At the Hedding Law Firm, we have defended many clients against a vehicular manslaughter charge with positive results. We also provide excellent murder and DUI defense representation in the state of California. Our firm strongly believes that you are innocent until proven guilty, and we will make every attempt to maintain your freedom and protect your individual rights. We can use an accident reconstruction expert in your defense.

In some instances an attorney at our firm may even be able to have your charges lowered or dismissed entirely. Does your charge involve alcohol? Contact our office to discuss all of the details of your case and how DUI charges may affect the circumstances of the arrest.

Protect Your Rights in Los Angeles County Courts

If charged with vehicular manslaughter, you will need a very strong defense. We will use our 75 years of combined knowledge and experience to aggressively defend your case. We are determined to succeed by obtaining a winning outcome for your case.

Call our office today to review the facts of your case, police report and obtain answers to any questions that you may have concerning the charges against you. You can expect a loyalty and trust that you can depend on to ensure your legal rights are well protected in the state of California.

Contact a vehicular manslaughter lawyer at our law firm and we will represent you throughout the entire court process and guide you through this difficult time in your life.

Related Articles

"The Art of The Perfect Defense" Your Essential Guide to Criminal Defense in Los Angeles"

Know Your RIGHTS!

LA's Sex Crime Defense Guide

Know Your RIGHTS! Free Download

LA's DUI Defense Guide

Here is What You Need To Know If Pulled Over On Suspicion Of Drunk Driving

LA\'s DUI Defense Guide Free Download

How To Defend A Federal Criminal Charge?

Defense Strategies For Superior Results

How To Defend A Federal Criminal Charge? Free Download
Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Call For A Free Strategy Session
(213) 374-3952