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Will I Go to Jail if Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter?

California Penal Code 192(c) PC vehicular manslaughter charges could be filed by the prosecutor if you drive in a reckless or negligent manner causing an accident resulting in the death of another person.

Put simply, if someone dies in a car accident while you were driving negligently or doing something that was illegal, then you are likely facing the serious criminal charges of vehicular manslaughter.

If you are convicted of PC 192(c), the penalties will depend on the level of negligence, such as ordinary or gross, if you were driving under the influence, and your prior criminal record.

Will I Go to Jail if Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter in California?

Some common examples of when you could face criminal charges of PC 192(c) vehicular manslaughter include the following:

  • a car driver is distracted by sending text messages on their cell phone and then strike and kill a pedestrian who was walking across the street;
  • the driver of a vehicle is excessively speeding and driving recklessly that causes a serious car accident killing the other driver.

Vehicular manslaughter charges under Penal Code 192(c) PC are more common than most people think due to our dependence on vehicles in California. It's no secret the state has some of the most congested roads and highways in the United States.

When a prosecutor is deciding the severity of charges in a vehicular manslaughter case, whether the car driver acted with ordinary or gross negligence is a significant factor.

For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are reviewing the laws below.

During the Commission of an Unlawful Act

Under Penal Code 192(c), vehicular manslaughter can be filed in different ways.

For example, if you caused a death while driving in the commission of an unlawful act that is not a felony crime, but with gross negligence, then it's considered the crime of vehicular manslaughter.

Gross negligence is generally described as a lack of care, or an extreme departure from what reasonable careful person would do in a similar situation to prevent harm to themselves or other people.

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

Readers should note there is not an established hard written rule clearly defining when a driver acted grossly negligent, but the California courts have basically described gross negligence as the following:

  • a high level of negligence,
  • an great departure from ordinary behavior, and
  • failing to exercise care that even a careless person would use.

As noted above, for example, if you are driving your car and became distracted because you were texting a friend on your cell phone, then strike and kill a pedestrian, you will likely get arrested by police and then prosecuted for Penal Code 192(c) vehicular manslaughter.

Driving a Vehicle with Ordinary or Gross Negligence

As noted, if you cause someone's death while driving in commission of a lawful act but with gross negligence or ordinary negligence, then you committed the crime of vehicular manslaughter.  In California, negligence means:

  • your conduct was different than what a reasonably careful person would have done in the same situation, or
  • you failed to act in a way that a reasonably careful person would have done in a similar situation.

For example, let's say you were rushing to get to a doctor's appointment and ran right though a stop sign, where you struck and killed a bicyclist, then you are facing the real possibility of facing vehicular manslaughter charges.

Readers should note that PC 192(c) statute doesn't prevent you from also facing California Penal Code 187 murder charges.

What are the Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter?

As noted, penalties for vehicular manslaughter conviction will vary based on the degree of negligence.

If you drove with gross negligence, then prosecutors could file the vehicular manslaughter case as either a felony or misdemeanor.

Put simply, the exact charge will largely depend on the circumstances of the accident. If convicted on a misdemeanor case, then the penalties will include:

  • up to one year in a county jail,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000,
  • summary probation.

If you are convicted of a felony case of vehicular manslaughter, however, the penalties will include:

  • up to six years in a California state prison,
  • a fine up to $10,000,
  • formal probation.

If you acted with ordinary negligence, then the case will be filed as a misdemeanor and carry the same penalties listed above.

If you are convicted of PC 192(c) vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence or for financial gain, then the state of California will suspend your driver's license for a minimum of three years.

What are the Related California Offenses?

Penal Code 187 PC – DUI Watson murder,

Penal Code 191.5 PC – gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated,

Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC – driving under the influence (DUI),

Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC – driving with a BAC of .08 or higher,

Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC – driving under the influence of drugs (DUID),

What About Getting Jail Time in Convicted?

It really depends on the seriousness of the vehicular manslaughter. That is a very generally broad term because you could have a case where somebody commits just a regular traffic offense and that ends up leading to a death.

It's really negligence versus any potential type of act or any crazy behavior that results in a death. Then you have the other extreme where somebody is:

Jail Time for PC 192(c) Vehicular Manslaughter
  • drinking and driving and kills somebody;
  • maybe somebody in a road rage situation kills somebody;
  • maybe they're car racing another person and somebody dies.
  • they've got no drugs or alcohol in their system, but they're driving around crazy and they kill somebody.

That's the extreme. That's where you can be charged with second degree murder. You can be charged with a PC 192(c) felony vehicular manslaughter and really what is going to determine whether you go to prison or jail, or maybe whether you get nothing, is:

  • what did you do?
  • what was the result?
  • what does your criminal record look like?
  • what does your driving record look like?
  • and how good is your attorney?

To me, if you really break it down, those are the factors that are going to determine what happens to you and whether they try to send you to prison or county jail, or whether you can get some other sentence where you don't go into custody.

Preparing a Defense Strategy for Vehicular Manslaughter Cases

People are deathly afraid of going into custody. I certainly understand this, so that's one of the things we talk about when we meet.

We have to look at what happened and what your record looks like and what we can try to do to make things right here and show the judge and the prosecutor that this was an abnormality.

This is never going to happen again. You're not a bad person. You have a lot of things going for you in your life and it's not fair to send you to prison.

So, what's going to determine that is how the case is handled, and of course, what kind of a case we have. To a degree, it's like playing poker. You get all of your cards. You don't turn them over. You don't know what you have and then you start to turn them over.

Let's say you have a beautiful hand right from the beginning because you don't have a criminal record, for example; you've never had any problems before — this was just a pure and simple accident.

Maybe you had some traffic violation. Now we're in a position to keep you out of prison.  We'll probably be able to keep you out of jail and we'll figure out how to set things up to help you.

Preparation of a Mitigation Package

But, if on the other hand, you turn those cards over and they are horrible and you were drinking and driving, you were racing, or you were doing some sort of wanton reckless behavior to the public safety and somebody died.  That's a bad hand.

Now you've got to start getting other cards and you have to start doing things that can help you, then:

  • we need to put together a mitigation package;
  • we need character letters;
  • we need to show the judge and the prosecutor the other side of the equation;
  • who you are as a person;
  • what you have to lose;
  • what happened;
  • why it happened, and
  • what we can do moving forward so it never happen again.

That is the key.  That's the crucial thing, especially when you have a very serious case.

You've got to do something to turn the tide by and hiring somebody like me who's been doing this almost 30 years, has handled hundreds of these vehicular manslaughter-related offenses.

I know what it takes to get the result. I know when we can try to shoot for no jail time whatsoever.  I know when we're begging to not go to prison because of what happened.

It really depends on the circumstances of the case and you as a person — who you are, what you have going for you, and we put that together and we get our game plan together.

Criminal Defense for Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

So, if you or a loved one is charged with California Penal Code 192(c) PC vehicular manslaughter, meaning somebody died as a result of something that happened on the road.

This might have occurred due to negligence, whether it was reckless behavior, whether it was gross negligence, whether it was wanton conduct — the worst conduct.

Criminal Defense for PC 192(c) Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

You may not have intended to kill somebody, but you were acting so recklessly that death was going to be inevitable either to you or to somebody else on the road.

You've come to the right place. Pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I've been doing this almost three decades. I've worked for the District Attorney's office early in my career, so I know how they prosecute these cases.

I know how they look at cases, and since 1994, I've been defending vehicular manslaughter charges just like yours.

Pick up the phone. Make the call now. Take the first step towards getting control of your life back.

Hedding Law firm is based in LA County with two office addresses, including 2049 Century Park E #2525 Los Angeles, CA 90067. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979, or fill out our contact form.