Vista Criminal Attorney is a professional law firm located in Vista, California. The law firm has skilled lawyers who practice criminal law and are able to help in any case particularly in the area concerning Vehicular Manslaughter which is a traffic-related charge involving homicide.

Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is committed to defending your rights or the rights of your loved ones. Over the years, the firm has represented many clients accused of criminal related offenses under the California Penal Code and has successfully defended their rights.

In this article we will elaborate on vehicular manslaughter, featuring potential penalties, available defenses and explain any related charges.

Vehicular Manslaughter Defined Under California Law

Vehicular manslaughter is the act of causing the demise of somebody else while operating a motor vehicle, by carelessly committing an unlawful act that does not amount to a felony in California, or by a legitimate act that results to the passing of the person.

It is worth paying attention that vehicular manslaughter is treated differently from murder, which occurs if the person died as a result of a felonious crime wherein such a case the driver would be charged with murder. When faced with a vehicular manslaughter charge, the prosecutor has to rule out any malice in the case for the scenario to be termed as vehicular manslaughter. Also, vehicular manslaughter only occurs when you are driving a vehicle, unlike other California manslaughter crimes.

The court usually tries to determine the circumstances leading to the passing of the person. It will also seek to know if the driver was drunk or sober at the time the incident occurred. If the court gets evidence that the driver was driving while under the influence (DUI) of drugs and or alcohol then the charges will change considerably to PC gross vehicular manslaughter while under intoxication which is under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) or PC vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, under California Penal Code 191.5 (b).

Vehicular Manslaughter Along with Gross Negligence

This law is contained under the California code 192 (c) (1) PC. The prosecution has to demonstrate the following crime elements for them to obtain a conviction.

They should be in a position to show the court that your actions while driving lead to the commission of a California infraction or a misdemeanor or you committed a legally correct act which might have resulted to the passing of a person. The results of your behavior should also be shown to have been risky to human wellbeing under the prevailing conditions and the particular act must have been done with carelessness or gross negligence. The ultimate impact of your doings should also be the demise of somebody else.

Gross negligence which is differentiated from ordinary carelessness or error due to poor judgment takes place when a driver acts recklessly, with little regard for human life in such a way that someone else would not reasonably do the same action. This is the major determinant for this crime.

Finally, the unfortunate death of somebody else should also be natural, predictable and directly linked to the driver’s actions. 

Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter

The particular elements of this crime are contained under the Penal Code 192(c) (2), PC. They include: 

  1. That you made a lawful act in an illegitimate way or committed a misdemeanor or what can be interpreted as an infraction.
  2. That your actions were risky to other people under the prevailing circumstances.
  3. That the actions were out of ordinary negligence.
  4. That your actions lead to the passing of somebody else.

An infraction is seen as less of a crime compared to a misdemeanor. Also, ordinary negligence used here refers to the fact that you did not care about the outcome of your behavior and that with some careful considerations you could have avoided causing harm and ultimately death of the victim. It means that you failed to act reasonably as a prudent person would. 

Vehicular Manslaughter to Gain Financially

This crime is prohibited under the Penal Code 192 (c) (3). It is said to have occurred when you a driver causes the demise of another human being, while in the process of intentionally wrecking their automobile for them to falsely claim for restitution from the insurance company.

The driver’s aim here is to wreck their vehicle in a bid to defraud their insurer or another entity but they, unfortunately, cause the passing of somebody else thus attracting these charges.

Which are the Possible Defenses for Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

As a driver, it is possible to find yourself facing the court for vehicular manslaughter charges. This is not the time to panic, but a chance for us to serve you by representing you in court. We will discuss potential defense strategies that we could apply in your favor below.

There was no gross negligence or negligence in your actions

Proving gross negligence and sometimes negligence might be hard for the state’s attorneys. This is because while operating a motor vehicle, one has to make abrupt decisions which even if they turn to be detrimental; it would be difficult to contend that they were out of negligence.

Our attorney may also help you to articulate to the court that your actions which resulted to the fatal accident were just negligent and not gross, in case you are facing Penal Code 192 (c) (1) PC. Doing this helps your case because your charges might be reduced from felonious to misdemeanor charges with this potentially delivering you from the mandatory 3 years driver’s license suspension. 

The Victim Did Not Die As a Result of the Driver’s Negligence

Your attorney may engage an expert witness to reconstruct the events that transpired before and after the accident to question the prosecutor’s account of the same. This may help to prove to the court that the accident was not due to your alleged gross negligence or negligence but a third party’s mistakes or the victims own mistakes.

By conducting a reconstruction of the accident, the attorney and the independent experts might be able to confront and win against the idea that the accident was due to the faulty driving of the defendant. The independent investigations may reveal circumstantial or direct evidence pointing to other causes to blame for the accident and not the accused. Such evidence may include other road users, poor road conditions or even bad weather. This may result in charges being dismissed or even reduced. 

There was an Emergency and you Reacted as a Reasonable Person Would

The attorney could assert that under the circumstances you were in, any reasonable person could have acted in a similar way as you did and thus it was not grossly negligent or even negligent at all. For instance, if you swerved to avoid a pothole on the road which could have damaged your car and it leads to an accident, you may argue that the action was not careless enough to warrant a conviction under this code. 

The Defendant was not the One Driving the Vehicle

The lawyer can tell the court that the accused was not the one behind the wheel when the accident occurred. This works better if especially the defendant has an alibi to prove to the court that they were actually somewhere else at the time of the incident. This may involve calling defense witnesses to take the stand. 

The Defendant Was not the Direct Cause of the Victim’s Death

There are many causes of deaths and hence, a Vista criminal defense lawyer might be able to ascertain to the court that your conduct was not substantially the cause of death of somebody else, but the demise was proximate, directly and naturally linked to some other cause. The attorney may have to engage a medical expert to help drive the point home. 

Insufficient evidence

Evidence which does not meet the burden of proof is said to be insufficient. Sometimes in a trial, the judge may dismiss the case even before the defense attorney presents their side for not being convincing enough. Insufficient evidence may also form the basis for an appeal. It usually ends up in a dismissal of the charges, or if in an appeal court, reversal of the judgment by the lower court.

What are the Sentences for a Vehicular Manslaughter Conviction?

The punishments for violating the Penal Code 192 (c) are determined by the type of violation you are charged with.

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter Along with Gross Negligence

The Penal Code 192 (c) (1) PC, vehicular manslaughter committed with gross negligence is seen as a wobbler under California laws and hence, it can be filed as a felonious crime or a misdemeanor. This is informed by the defendant’s past criminal history and the set of conditions surrounding the crime. If it is filed as a misdemeanor, they could get misdemeanor probation or what is commonly referred to as summary probation, one-year jail term in a county facility, or a thousand dollars fine ($1000).

A felonious vehicular manslaughter sentence attracts felony probation also known as formal probation, a two, four- or six-years jail time in a state prison in California, or a $10,000 court fine as possible penalties.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter

PC 192(c) (2) code for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter subjects a defendant to misdemeanor probation, a one county jail term, and or a fine not exceeding a thousand dollars ($1000).

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter to Gain Financially

This crime’s penalties as outlined by the Penal Code 192 (c) (3) are quite harsh as this offense is regarded as a felony. If convicted, a defendant may face a four (4), six (6) or ten (10) years prison term in a California prison and be liable to pay a court fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Driver’s License Suspension

A conviction for all the above offenses apart from the California misdemeanor vehicle manslaughter under the Penal Code 192 (c) (2) PC, will have the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspend the driver’s license for a period of not less than three years.

Driving during this period may have them arrested to face the driving while on a revoked license charges contained in the California Penal Code 14601 VC.

Related Offenses to Penal Code 192 (c) PC

The following offenses are closely related to the Penal Code 192 (c) PC in such a way they may be preferred along with or instead of the vehicular manslaughter charges. They are;

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While under Intoxication and Vehicular Manslaughter While Under Intoxication

These two laws are located in the California code 191.5 PC and are filed when it is suspected that you led to the demise of somebody else by operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol.

California Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC gross vehicular manslaughter while under intoxication occurs when a driver causes the death of somebody else by operating a vehicle with gross negligence while intoxicated. It is punished as a felony and if one is sentenced, they may get a 4, 6 or 10 years in a state holding facility.

On the other hand, California Penal Code 191.5 (b) PC vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated but without gross negligence is regarded as a wobbler and it might be punished as a felonious crime or misdemeanor. If a felony, one may get a state prison term of one and a half years, two or three years and up to a year in jail if it is prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

The Penal code 192 (c) PC vehicular manslaughter is seen as the simpler alternative to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and therefore if a prosecutor fails to prove before the court that the defendant was under the influence beyond doubt they may prefer to file charges under the Penal Code 192 (c) PC.

Kindly note that operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated refers to driving either when under the influence as it is outlined under the California Vehicle Code 23152(a), driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.8 or above as outlined under California Vehicle Code 23152(b), driving with a BAC measuring over 0.5 if under twenty one (21) years old and driving while under the influence of drugs as outlined under the California Vehicle Code 23152(e). 

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Murder

The worst cases entailing DUI deaths are punished as murder and not under Penal Code 192 (c) PC. To be specific, a California prosecutor may prefer DUI murder or Watson murder charges on you if you have had other convictions for DUI and if you had been informed on the risks of DUI.

A Watson advisement informs the defendant on the risks of driving under the influence, and also makes them aware that if they commit vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, they could end up facing murder charges under the Penal Code 187, which is California’s law prohibiting murder.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding Vehicular Manslaughter

What if the Victim was a Passenger in My Vehicle?

People may be surprised to find themselves formally charged with vehicular manslaughter when an accident occurs which leads to the passing of a passenger in the vehicle they were operating. This is the case in law as far as it is alleged that the driver’s negligence caused the accident. Thus, it does not matter whether the victim was a pedestrian, a driver or passenger in another vehicle or even a passenger in the defendant’s vehicle. 

What Happens if the Driver Fled the Scene of the Accident?

You can attract an additional penalty of usually five years if you fled the scene of a vehicular manslaughter accident in case you are convicted of the offense. You may also attract additional hit and run charges if the prosecution is able to demonstrate that you fled the scene of an accident without following the due diligence according to the law.

Find a Vista Vehicular Manslaughter Attorney Near Me

It can be pretty tough for you or a loved one when you are involved in an accident and just as you are contemplating the way forward, you get arrested on vehicular manslaughter allegations.

We are here to offer support to you during these times by helping you to build a firm defense in court against these charges. As we pointed out in the beginning, our firm has well qualified and experienced attorneys who have mastered the intricate California justice system and are able to fight the charges of vehicular manslaughter and other additionally charges that might be charged together. Call us at 760-691-1551 and to discuss your case with one of our legal experts. We serve the areas of Vista and the entire North County in California. Do not wait to call us, the sooner you call, the faster we can start developing a solid defense for you. Give our Vista Criminal Lawyer a call today!