Vehicular Manslaughter

In California, a driver/person commits the crime of vehicular manslaughter by driving in a negligent or unlawful manner and thereby causing the death of another person.

The seriousness of the charges and punishments depend on;

      • the degree of negligence involved,
      • if the driver was intoxicated (drugs or alcohol), and
      • the defendant’s prior criminal record, including if they’re currently on parole or probation

Defenses:

      • You did not act with negligence or gross negligence;
      • Your negligence didn’t cause the victim’s death;
      • You were facing a sudden emergency and acted reasonably under the circumstances.

Penalties:

The penalties under California’s vehicular manslaughter law depend on whether you acted with gross negligence, or with ordinary negligence.

WITHOUT Gross Negligence.

Penal Code 192(c)(2) vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler. This means it may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

      • Up to one Year in County Jail
      • Potential loss of Driver’s License
      • Potential Disqualification from Government Assistance Programs
      • Immigration Consequences

WITH Gross Negligence:

      • 1 year county jail
      • 2-, 4-, or 6-years state prison
      • Loss of Driver’s License
      • Potential Disqualification from Government Assistance Programs
      • Immigration Consequences

Gross negligence is key element to the definition of vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code 192(c)(1). Gross negligence is something more than ordinary carelessness, inattentiveness, or error in judgment. Gross negligence occurs only when:

      1. A person acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or GBI—Great Bodily Injury; AND
      2. A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.

California Code on Vehicular Manslaughter WITHOUT Gross Negligence:

192.5.  

Vehicular manslaughter pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 191.5 and subdivision (c) of Section 192 is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, and includes:

(a) Operating a vessel in violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of Section 655 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, and in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony, and with gross negligence; or operating a vessel in violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of Section 655 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, and in the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.

(b) Operating a vessel in violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of Section 655 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, and in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony, but without gross negligence; or operating a vessel in violation of subdivision (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of Section 655 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, and in the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.

(c) Operating a vessel in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence; or operating a vessel in the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.

(d) Operating a vessel in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence; or operating a vessel in the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.

(e) A person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of subdivision (a), (b), or (c), upon conviction, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state prison. This additional term shall not be imposed unless the allegation is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact. The court shall not strike a finding that brings a person within the provisions of this subdivision or an allegation made pursuant to this subdivision.

(Amended by Stats. 2007, Ch. 747, Sec. 5. Effective January 1, 2008.)

 

California Code on Vehicular Manslaughter WITH Gross Negligence:

191.5.  

(a) Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.

(b) Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.

(c) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (d), gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in violation of subdivision (a) is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 4, 6, or 10 years.

(2) Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in violation of subdivision (b) is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months or two or four years.

(d) A person convicted of violating subdivision (a) who has one or more prior convictions of this section or of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 192, subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 192.5 of this code, or of violating Section 23152 punishable under Sections 23540, 23542, 23546, 23548, 23550, or 23552 of, or convicted of Section 23153 of, the Vehicle Code, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 15 years to life. Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 2930) of Chapter 7 of Title 1 of Part 3 shall apply to reduce the term imposed pursuant to this subdivision.

(e) This section shall not be construed as prohibiting or precluding a charge of murder under Section 188 upon facts exhibiting wantonness and a conscious disregard for life to support a finding of implied malice, or upon facts showing malice consistent with the holding of the California Supreme Court in People v. Watson, 30 Cal. 3d 290.

(f) This section shall not be construed as making any homicide in the driving of a vehicle or the operation of a vessel punishable which is not a proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony, or of the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner.

(g) For the penalties in subdivision (d) to apply, the existence of any fact required under subdivision (d) shall be alleged in the information or indictment and either admitted by the defendant in open court or found to be true by the trier of fact.

(Amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 15, Sec. 281. (AB 109) Effective April 4, 2011. Operative October 1, 2011, by Sec. 636 of Ch. 15, as amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 39, Sec. 68.)

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