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What are You Facing if Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter?

California Penal Code 192(c) PC vehicular manslaughter charges can be filed against someone when they drive in a negligent or unlawful manner causing the death of another person.

Put simply, if someone was killed in a car accident in California, you might be facing vehicular manslaughter charges if you were driving negligently or doing something illegal.

The penalties for a PC 192(c) vehicular manslaughter conviction will depend on the level of negligence, such as ordinary or gross, whether you were driving under the influence, and your prior record.

An example of vehicular manslaughter includes a situation where someone driving a vehicle is speeding or driving in a reckless manner that cause a car collision that kills the other driver.

As noted, a primary factor in the prosecution of a vehicular manslaughter case is whether the driver acted with ordinary or gross negligence.

To give readers a better understanding of these laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review below

Ordinary or Gross Negligence

If you cause someone's death while driving “in the commission of an unlawful act,” and with gross negligence, then it's considered vehicular manslaughter.

In the state of California, gross negligence is described as the lack of any care or extreme departure from what a reasonable careful person would do in the similar situation to prevent harm to oneself or others.”

What are You Facing if Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter in California?

Put simply, gross negligence is more serious than ordinary negligence but not as extreme as recklessness.

There is no hard legal definition of when somebody has acted grossly negligent, but is generally describe as:

  • great negligence,
  • an extreme departure from ordinary behavior, and
  • failure to exercise care that even a careless person would use.

If you cause someone's death while driving in commission of a lawful act, but ordinary negligence, it's also considered vehicular manslaughter.

Ordinary negligence is not as serious as gross negligence and generally described as the following:

  • you did something a reasonable careful person would not do in the same situation, or
  • you failed to do something that a reasonable careful person would have done in the same situation.

An example includes a situation where you were distracted and ran a stop sign that struck and killed a bicyclist.

Thorough Review of the Details of the Case

This is a very common crime in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley because there are so many drivers on the road. It's such a huge metropolis. There are accidents.

People are seriously hurt.  People are killed and a lot of times people end up getting charged with vehicular manslaughter.

There's a bunch of different charges that can follow when you're on the road, you become involved in an accident and somebody dies.  It really just depends on:

  • what was happening just prior to the subject accident;
  • were you racing?
  • were you speeding?
  • were you intoxicated on alcohol?

Or was it just a simple accident?  If it's just a simple accident, you really shouldn't be charged with vehicular manslaughter and you really shouldn't be charged with a crime.  Sometimes accident happen.

They happen all the times, especially with this many cars on the road in the greater Los Angeles area. So, vehicular manslaughter is usually not the right charge under those circumstances.

Acting in a Highly Dangerous Manner

But, a lot of times you have prosecutors, police officers, attorneys — the other side — trying to claim that it's more than just an accident.

Put simply, you were doing something that was highly dangerous to the public, and if you're doing something highly dangerous to the public and you were racing, or were intoxicated, or you were driving in a very dangerous manner and somebody dies.

If the prosecution can prove what's called, gross negligence that was discussed above, now they start to get themselves in a position where they can charge you with Penal Code 192(c) PC vehicular manslaughter.

If that happens, then the most serious punishments come into play.  For example:

  • you can be sent to prison;
  • you can lose your driver's license for a significant period of time;
  • your record will be marked;
  • you also subject yourself civilly to being sued by the family of the person who was killed.

So, these vehicular manslaughter charges are very serious and it really is, believe it or not, splitting hairs a lot of times whether someone is going to be charged with vehicular manslaughter versus Penal Code 187 PC second degree murder versus Penal Code 192(b) involuntary manslaughter.

The crime of involuntary manslaughter is a more negligent act and somebody dies versus no crime at all, where someone just basically did something wrong or maybe the accident is nobody's fault.

Maybe it's the fault of the individual who passed away.  That's where we start to get involved with defenses in vehicular manslaughter cases.

Best Defenses for Vehicular Manslaughter Cases

One of the defenses is, I'm not the one that caused the accident that led to the death.  If you can prove that some other force caused the accident, the person that ended dying themselves, maybe some third-party, maybe some act of nature.

So, the prosecutors first have to prove that you caused the accident. The next question is; you have to be the one that causes the death.

What if you get involved in an accident and the person is not wearing their seatbelt while they're driving a vehicle that is unsafe and if they were driving a safe vehicle, then the death would not have occurred.

Best Defenses for California Vehicular Manslaughter Cases

So, there's a whole bunch of issues surrounding these vehicular manslaughter cases.  I divide them into two categories. One category is those vehicular manslaughter case where someone is driving with alcohol or drugs in their system, or a combination of both.

Those are probably the worst category and the one that will get you in prison and subject you to the worst punishment.

The other category is negligence. Someone is acting negligently — speeding, making some fort of an illegal maneuver — something that they really don't have any intent but they should be more careful and tragically, a death occurs.

Then there are those cases that I think are kind of in the middle, like street racing (link) for example or speeding too fast or driving in a reckless manner.  You don't mean to kill anybody, but it's foreseeable.

You should realize that if you're going to drive like that, somebody could die and you're going to be held responsible for it.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with vehicular manslaughter in Los Angeles County, pick up the phone.  Make the call.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. Hedding Law Firm has two office locations in LA County and offers a free case evaluation.