The California Penal Code 192(c) defines vehicular manslaughter as causing the death of another individual while operating a vehicle. You may cause death negligently by committing an unlawful act that does not qualify as a felony. You may also be guilty of vehicular manslaughter for negligently committing a lawful act that leads to the loss of life of another individual. Vehicular manslaughter is a crime under California law, and the associated consequences are detrimental. Los Angeles criminal lawyer is committed to assisting persons facing vehicular manslaughter charges.
Overview of Vehicular Manslaughter Under California Law
Under California law, you may face vehicular manslaughter charges for committing an act that is not a felony while driving and killing someone. If you kill a person through committing a felony act while driving, you may face murder charges under Penal code 187 PC instead. You may be guilty of vehicular manslaughter under several circumstances. For instance, if you are operating your cellphone while driving and you hit and kill a person, you may face charges under Penal Code 192 (c). You may face similar charges if you are operating your vehicle at high speed and you end up hitting another car killing the vehicle's occupant. You may also face vehicular manslaughter charges if you fail to adhere to road signs and you kill a pedestrian in the process.
California Penal Code 192 (c) (1)
The California Penal Code 192 (c) (1) outlines the crime of vehicular manslaughter with excessive/gross negligence. There are several elements of this crime that the prosecutor has to prove for you to face charges under California Penal Code 192 (c) (1). It must be evident that while operating a vehicle, you committed an infraction or a misdemeanor in a manner that might threaten human life. You may also face charges for committing a lawful act in a way that might cause death. The prosecutor must prove further that under the circumstances, your action was a threat or danger to human life. It must be evident that you committed the act with excessive/gross negligence. Finally, it must be clear that your actions led to the loss of life or death of another individual.
Under California Penal Code 192 (c) (1), if the prosecutor fails to prove that you acted with excessive/gross negligence, you cannot face vehicular manslaughter charges. Gross negligence means that you acted in a manner that exceeds ordinary carelessness, error in judgment, or inattentiveness. It means that you acted in a careless manner creating a high likelihood of death or significant bodily injury. In addition, it means that a reasonable/careful individual would have been aware that acting in such a manner would pose a high risk. You are guilty of gross negligence if you act so differently from the way a reasonable person would have acted under similar circumstances.
For you to face charges for vehicular manslaughter with excessive/gross negligence, your actions must have led to the death of another individual. The death of another individual may either be direct, natural, or as a consequence of your negligent actions. Your gross negligence does not have to be the only cause of death for you to face charges under California Penal Code 192 (c) (1). As long as your negligence is a substantial factor in causing the death of another individual, you may face vehicular manslaughter charges.
For example, you may be driving recklessly and swaying from one side to the other on the highway, and you accidentally hit a pedestrian. The pedestrian does not die from the impact of your vehicle be is unable to walk and remains lying in the middle of the road. Another car runs over the pedestrian, killing him instantly. You may face vehicular manslaughter with excessive/gross negligence charges. This is because your actions were a substantial or significant factor in the pedestrian's death, even if your actions were not the only cause of death.
Penal Code 192 (c) (2)
The California Penal Code 192 (c) (2) outlines the crime of misdemeanor or ordinary negligence vehicular manslaughter. To face charges for this crime, the prosecutor has to prove several elements. It must be evident that you were operating a vehicle, and you committed a lawful act in an unlawful manner. You may also have committed a misdemeanor or an infraction. The prosecutor must further prove that the act you committed posed a threat to human life. It must be evident that you committed the act with normal/ordinary negligence. Finally, the prosecutor has to prove that your actions led to the death of another individual. The main difference of a crime under Penal Code 192 (c) (2) and a crime under Code 192 (c) (1) is the extent of negligence. A crime under Code 192 (c) (1) requires you to act with excessive/gross negligence while a crime under Penal Code 192 (c) (2) requires you to act in ordinary negligence.
For example, you may be driving when you come to a stop sign. You stop your vehicle waiting to make a right turn amidst the heavy traffic. Immediately after getting an opportunity, you join the highway and swerve to the right. In the process, you hit a pedestrian, killing him instantly. The pedestrian was entering a crosswalk, but you did not remember to check the crosswalk as you made the turn. You are guilty of acting negligently for failing to check the crosswalk. However, your failure to check the crosswalk may not qualify as gross negligence. Therefore, instead of facing charges under Penal Code 192 (c) (1), you may face charges under Penal Code 192 (c) (2). Your actions would qualify as ordinary negligence but not gross negligence.
California Penal Code 192 (c) (3)
The California Penal Code 192 (c) (3) describes the crime of vehicular manslaughter for monetary/financial gain. You may be guilty of this crime if you knowingly and willingly participate or cause a collision. The prosecutor must prove that you knew the purpose of the collision was to attain a financial gain or to defraud an insurance company. Finally, the prosecutor must prove that the collision led to the death of another individual. In simpler terms, if you kill another person while deliberately and intentionally wrecking your vehicle to commit insurance fraud, you are guilty under California Penal Code 192 (c) (3).
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter under Penal Code 192 (c)
A crime of vehicular manslaughter may attract varying penalties. The penalties you face will depend on the type of crime you commit. A crime of vehicular manslaughter with excessive/gross negligence is a wobbler under California law. This means that you may face either misdemeanor or felony charges for a crime under Penal Code 192 (c) (1). Whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges will depend on several factors, including the circumstances surrounding the offense. The charges you face will also depend on your criminal history.
For a misdemeanor charge under Penal Code 192 (c) (1), the consequences may include a misdemeanor summary probation. This is an informal probation that does not require you to meet with the probation officer regularly. It does not also require you to visit the probation office regularly. You may also serve up to one year in county jail. The court may also require you to pay a fine that does not exceed $ 1,000.
If you face felony charges for a crime under the Penal Code 192 (c) (1), the penalties may include formal felony probation. Formal probation comes with some conditions, including meeting the probation officer on a regular basis. You may also have to make regular visits to the probation office. Additional consequences include imprisonment in a California state prison. The imprisonment may range from two, four, or six years. The court may also require you to pay fines that do not exceed $10,000.
A charge under ordinary vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor under California law. The consequences are similar for the penalties for a misdemeanor offense under Penal Code 192 (c) (1). They include misdemeanor probation, imprisonment of up to one year in county jail, and a fine that does not exceed $1000.
An offense under Penal Code 192 (c) (3) always attracts felony charges. For vehicular manslaughter for monetary gains, the penalties include fines that do not exceed $10,000. You may also serve imprisonment in state prison ranging from 4, 6, or 10 years.
Driver's license suspension is also a possible consequence of vehicular manslaughter crimes. If you face charges under Penal Code 192 (c) (3) and Penal Code 192 (c) (1) the California Department of Motor Vehicle may revoke/suspend your license. For vehicular manslaughter with excessive/gross negligence or vehicular manslaughter for monetary/financial gain, you cannot reinstate your license until three years after the revocation date. If you happen to operate your vehicle on a revoked license, you will face some additional charges. You will face charges under California Vehicle Code 14601 VC for operating a car on a suspended license.
Common Defenses for Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
A vehicle accident may occur even when you are not acting negligently. Even a reasonable person may cause an accident leading to the death of another individual. In most fatal vehicle accidents, prosecutors are always quick to assign the charges for vehicular manslaughter. In some instances, the charges for vehicular manslaughter may be unfair and unjustified. If you are currently facing charges for vehicular manslaughter, your lawyer can help you come up with several legal defenses. The defenses can help fight a vehicular manslaughter offense or reduce the charges to a lesser crime. Some of the common defenses include:
You Did Not Act in Gross or Ordinary Negligence
In a vehicular manslaughter case, it may be difficult to prove both ordinary and gross negligence. The definition of both types of negligence uses the behavior of a reasonable person as the standard. The criteria may sound objective, but in the real sense, it is pretty subjective. When you are operating a motor vehicle, you need to make swift decisions. Even if you make some bad decisions while operating a vehicle, it is still hard to prove that you acted in negligence.
If you are currently facing enhanced charges under Penal Code 192 (c) (1) for vehicular manslaughter with excessive/gross negligence, you may argue that you did not act in gross negligence but in ordinary negligence. Denying gross negligence and instead claiming ordinary negligence may help you reduce your charges from a felony to misdemeanor charges. You may also be able to retain your driver's license.
The Victim Did Not Die Due to Your Negligence
Even if someone died due to your lawful or unlawful act other than a felony, it is hard to prove that your negligence caused the death. At times, the death may have resulted due to the negligence of the victim or due to the negligence of third parties. If the victim did not die due to your negligent act, you cannot face vehicular manslaughter charges. With the help of an experienced lawyer, you can challenge the statement of the prosecutor. Even if the prosecutor strives to prove that the child died due to your negligence, you can assert that you did not act negligently.
You Did Not Act in an Unreasonable Manner
When proving a vehicular manslaughter case, the prosecutor has to prove that you did not act reasonably under the circumstances. You may defend yourself by asserting that you faced a sudden emergency and that you acted reasonably. You may point out that under similar circumstances, a reasonable individual would act the same way as you.
By asserting this, you can prove in court that you are not guilty of gross negligence or ordinary negligence. For instance, you may be driving along a highway when suddenly a deer jumps into the road. To avoid hitting the dear, you hastily swerve your vehicle and accidentally hit a pedestrian killing him on the spot. Under this circumstance, you may claim that you were merely responding to the unexpected emergency. The court may decide that your actions were not negligent enough to qualify for vehicular manslaughter charges.
There are several offenses that are related to vehicular manslaughter under Penal code 192 (c). You may face charges for these offenses alongside vehicular manslaughter charges or instead of vehicular manslaughter charges. The related offenses include:
Vehicular Manslaughter under the Influence/While Intoxicated-Penal Code 191.5 PC
An offense of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence is different from the one of vehicular manslaughter under penal code 192 (c). You are guilty of an offense under Penal Code 191.5 PC when you operate a vehicle while intoxicated and you kill a person in the process. You may either be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
You are intoxicated if you are under the influence as outlined by vehicle code 23152 (a). You are also intoxicated if you have a BAC of .08 or more as outlined by vehicle code 23152 (b). If you are under 21 years of age, you are intoxicated if you have a BAC of .05 or more. You are also intoxicated if you are under the influence of drugs as outlined under vehicle code 23152 (e).
A crime of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence is a wobbler-a misdemeanor or a felony under California law. The consequences for the offense may include serving one year in a county jail for a misdemeanor offense. For a felony offense, the consequence may include imprisonment of 16 months, two years, or 3 years.
A crime under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) is a felony offense. Gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence comes with hefty penalties. You may serve imprisonment in a California state prison for four, six, or ten years. A charge under Penal code 192 (c) is a lesser offense for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence. If the prosecutor is unable to prove that you were indeed intoxicated, you may face charges under Penal Code 192 (c) instead.
Watson Murder/DUI Murder
If another person dies due to your actions while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may face Watson murder charges or DUI murder charges. You may face these charges if you are a repeat you have previous DUI convictions. You may also face these charges if you had received a Watson warning before. A Watson warning is a sensitization on the negative effects of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. A Watson warning informs the driver that drunk driving may pose a great danger to human life.
A crime of Watson murder falls under California Penal Code 187, second-degree murder. To face Watson murder charges, the prosecutor has to prove that you acted with implied malice. It must be clear that your actions exhibited a disregard for human life.
Other factors that may lead to a Watson murder, including recording very high levels of BAC. If your blood alcohol concentration exceeds .15%, you are likely to face Watson murder charges. You may also face the charges is you are involved in extremely reckless behavior. This may include operating a vehicle at excessive speed or participating in a speed contest.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you are currently facing vehicular manslaughter charges, it is wise to seek legal counsel from an attorney. An attorney will help you come up with a good defense for your charges. Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can assist you to fight vehicular manslaughter charges. Contact us at 310-502-1314 and speak to one of our attorneys today.