Imagine driving home and on the way to your destination you end up in a car accident. The result of that accident is the death of a victim and now your life as you know it changes forever. An officer asks you what happened and even though you know it was an accident, the officer is required to charge you either under misdemeanor or felony vehicular manslaughter. Depending on the type of charge you could be facing incarceration, substantial fines, loss of career opportunities and driving privileges. Don't let any of this happen to you! If you are or could be facing vehicular manslaughter charges, contact experienced criminal defense attorney Vik Monder so that he may take control of the situation before it escalates any further.
Vehicular Manslaughter in San Diego
If a driver kills another person while driving a vehicle, the driver may be prosecuted and convicted of vehicular manslaughter. A vehicular manslaughter charge means that due to negligent operation of a motor vehicle it resulted in the death of another person. Negligent operation of a motor vehicle includes but is not limited to speeding, talking on a cell phone, texting while driving, being impaired while driving or disobeying traffic control devises. There are three different types of vehicular manslaughter crimes codified in the California Penal Code. These include vehicular manslaughter that doesn’t involve alcohol or drugs, vehicular manslaughter involving alcohol or drugs, and gross vehicular manslaughter. The circumstances of your particular situation will determine which penal code section applies.
Vehicular Manslaughter Not Involving Drugs or Alcohol
California’s vehicular manslaughter laws punish a driver that kills another person because the driver:
1. Drives in an unlawful way;
2. Drives in a lawful but dangerous way;or
3. Knowingly causes the accident for financial gain.
The offense described above, vehicular manslaughter not involving drugs or alcohol is prohibited under California Penal Code section 192(c).
Vehicular manslaughter in San Diego is a wobbler which means that the prosecutor has discretion to charge the crime as a felony or as a misdemeanor. If convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, you face up to one year in a county jail. If convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter, you face anywhere from two to ten years in California state prison.
Vehicular Manslaughter Involving Alcohol or Drugs
California Penal Code section 191.5(b) is what the prosecution will charge if they suspect that a driver was violating California’s driving under the influence laws at the time of driving and when the victim was killed. The prosecutor will hold the driver responsible for the accident.
In order to convict you of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, the prosecution must prove:
1. You were driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI),
2. You negligently committed an unlawful act, or a lawful but dangerous act, in addition to the DUI, and
3. Your negligence caused the death of another person.
Even though the state must prove that you were driving under the influence, California law prohibits you from being punished for the DUI separately from the vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The crimes merge for sentencing and, if convicted, you will only be sentenced for the manslaughter charge.
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter
This offense is a wobbler so a prosecutor can charge it as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. If convicted of Penal Code 191.5(b) as a misdemeanor, you face up to a year in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.
If convicted of this offense as a felony, you may face:
• Sixteen months, or two or four years in the California state prison, and
• An additional and consecutive three to six-year sentence if any surviving victim suffers great bodily injury under Penal Code section 12022.7, and
• Maximum of $10,000.00 in fines.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter
The purpose of charging individuals for vehicular manslaughter is to promote public safety. This does not necessarily mean you should be found guilty of a felony because of an accident but an experienced criminal defense attorney would be beneficial in assessing the likelihood of a positive case outcome in your particular circumstance. Even though you admit fault or apologize for the accident that occurred it does not necessarily mean that you should be spending time behind bars.
Penal Code section 191.5(a) is prosecuted in the same way as Penal Code section 191.5(b) except that the prosecutor must prove that a person acted with gross negligence. Gross negligence is best described as an “I don’t care what happens attitude.”
A person can’t violate Penal Code section 191.5(a) without also violating Penal Code section 191.5(b). Section 191.5(b) is a “necessarily included offense” of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Therefore, even if prosecutors charge you with section 191.5(a), a jury could decide to convict you of the lesser-included offense of section 191.5(b).
Penalties for Gross Vehicular Manslaughter
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is always a felony. Depending on the facts of the case, a person may face:
• Four, six, or ten years in the California state prison; or
• Fifteen years-to-life in state prison if you have a prior PC section 191.5 conviction or two or more prior DUI convictions.
If there are any surviving victims who suffered great bodily injury, a person faces an additional and consecutive three to six-year prison sentence.
If the victim in the case dies later on and not at the scene of the accident, it is important to understand that you can still be charged with vehicular manslaughter at a later point if the victim ends up passing away as a result of the accident. Often times the investigators will attempt to explain that they are not there to prosecute you and they are waiting for the victim to recover. They will attempt to get more statements from you and try to get you to agree to take a chemical test to determine if there is any controlled substance in your system. The moment law enforcement discusses the case with you means that they are trying to build a case around you for the purposes of putting you in jail.
It is important to never speak to police or investigators regarding the circumstances surrounding the accident. It is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney that knows the correct language to use with law enforcement to prevent life-long traumatic consequences. You should contact an attorney immediately to start making the necessary phone calls on your behalf. The only direction you should give law enforcement in the contact information for an attorney that would be willing to speak on your behalf. At Monder Law Group, PC we pride ourselves in providing the best representation in San Diego County. We have a team of experts that will help provide the best explanation in your defense from the prospective of accident reconstruction. Our successful track record speaks for itself. If you find yourself facing serious felony or misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges contact us today for a free confidential consultation at 619-405-0063.