Vehicular manslaughter in California

Have you been charged with vehicular manslaughter in California? Our Los Angeles Lluis Law car accident lawyers can help. 

We have more than 40 years of legal practice defending people accused of this and other automobile crimes. 

Call right now and you will get a free, no-obligation consultation where we will review your case and tell you what options are available.

What is considered vehicular manslaughter in California in 2020? 

This crime is constituted by causing death to another person while driving a motor vehicle. California Penal Code section 192c defines it as the “seriously negligent” behavior of a person while driving. 

It differs from murder in that it does not seek to harm or cause the death of the other person. When acted maliciously and intentionally it becomes murder. Vehicular manslaughter is also called wrongful or negligent manslaughter.

An example of vehicular manslaughter in California is killing a pedestrian due to carelessness while driving. It occurs when you take your eyes off the road while driving to answer a text message or stare off to the side.

pedestrian hit by car

In our article “Pedestrian hit by car ” you will discover the compensation to which the family is entitled.

Similarly, running a red light on a traffic light and colliding with another driver, causing death due to impact. It also includes deaths caused by drunk driving or under the influence of drugs (DUI).

Types of vehicular manslaughter

The three possible vehicle homicide ratings under California Law are as follows: 

  1. Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence (section 192 (c) (1) of the Penal Code). 
  2. Vehicular manslaughter as a misdemeanor (section 192 (c) (2) of the Penal Code).
  3. Vehicular manslaughter with financial gain (section 192 (c) (3) of the Penal Code).

Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence

The prosecutor must demonstrate the following elements of conviction:

  • The defendant committed a misdemeanor, infraction, or legal act in a way that could cause death while driving a vehicle.
  • During the act and under specific circumstances, he endangered human life.
  • The driver acted with gross negligence.
  • The act caused the death of another person.

As a misdemeanor, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant committed an act considered to be an offense or misdemeanor. Or that you committed a legal act that could have resulted in the death of another person.

When the act is classified as a felony and results in the death of another, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. But you could also be charged with murder under the murder rule as a felony.

What is gross negligence?

This imputation implies that there was more than just carelessness, inattention, or common sense. To prove gross negligence, the prosecutor must establish that:

  1. The driver’s conduct was so reckless that it put him at high risk of death or caused serious bodily injury.
  2. Another reasonable person in your place would have known that such conduct or action would cause such risk.

Serious negligence with death 

To do this, the prosecutor must prove that it was gross negligence that caused the death of the other person. So the victim died as a result of his action. 

When death is caused by a factor other than negligent conduct of the accused there is no element of causation. Although the prosecutor can argue that there were other additional elements that also contributed to causing the death.

The cause of death of another person is the key element in determining the crime. To be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, the actions must cause the death of the other person.

In other words, the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent. Therefore, they caused that person’s death directly, naturally, and likely.

Vehicular manslaughter as a misdemeanor 

vehicular manslaughter due to traffic accident

The elements to prove this crime are:

  • The defendant committed a misdemeanor or violation while driving.
  • The act constituted a danger to human life under such circumstances.
  • The driver acted with ordinary negligence.
  • The act resulted in the death of another person.

Vehicular manslaughter as a misdemeanor only requires that ordinary negligence be present. While as a felony, vehicular manslaughter requires gross negligence. 

Differences between ordinary negligence and gross negligence

Ordinary negligence. It occurs when a driver fails to care for other drivers and pedestrians. In this sense, you must have a valid license, drive carefully, obey traffic regulations. And generally, drive safely.

Serious negligence. It is intentionally putting other people’s lives and property at risk while driving. Unlike ordinary negligence (being careless), the gross negligent driver does it on purpose. 

Their actions denote a “contempt for human life or the consequences of that action.”

The determination of one or the other conduct will be based on the specific facts and circumstances. Speeding may be classified as gross or gross negligence. 

For example, driving on a highway at 80 MPH where only 30 MPH is allowed, is probably negligence. But to do so, on a highway where it is allowed by clear traffic lanes, does not constitute a violation of the rules.

Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain

To prove this crime, the prosecutor must establish the following elements: 

  • The accused driver was driving a vehicle and intentionally caused a collision.
  • With the purpose of fraudulently claiming insurance compensation for financial gain.
  • The intentional collision resulted in the death of another person. 

If convicted, the driver can be convicted of involuntary manslaughter of vehicles.

Offenses related to vehicular manslaughter in California

Some of the charges related to vehicular homicide but different are:

  • Murder (Penal Code 187 PC). If it is determined that the accused was about to commit a serious crime when the event occurred. For example, running over a person while fleeing from the police.
  • DUI vehicular manslaughter (California Penal Code 191.5 PC). Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. 

Penalties 

As a wobbler crime , it can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor. Other additional charges depend on the circumstances of the fact and the criminal record of the accused. 

Punishment as a misdemeanor

  • Up to 12 months in prison.
  • Summary probation. 
  • Fine of up to $ 1,000.

Punishment as a serious crime

  • Two to four years in prison.
  • Formal probation.
  • Fine of up to $ 10,000. 

Vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence as well as gross negligence can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor. However, the most serious crime would be presented as a greater crime than the least serious. 

If during the trial it is determined that the crime was committed for profit, it will be filed as a serious crime. A $ 10,000 fine and a prison sentence in a four to ten year state jail will be added.

When, in addition to vehicular manslaughter, the defendant flees from the scene of the accident (hit and run) the sentence increases. Up to five years in prison are usually added to the sentence.

License suspension

Depending on the circumstances of the event, the vehicular manslaughter charge in California may be accompanied by suspension of the driver’s license. 

People who are convicted of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence or for profit lose the privilege of driving. 

The sanction generally extends up to three years. If you make the mistake of driving with a suspended license, the penalized driver could be convicted of this crime (VC-14601).

Possible defenses 

Each case presents a different defense strategy. However, some of the most frequent possible defenses in these cases are:

The driver did not act negligently

Sometimes quick decisions must be made that can result in sudden movements and cause an accident. But beyond reasonable doubt, the prosecutor must prove negligence. 

Making an incorrect decision does not necessarily have to be considered negligent conduct. For example, dodging an obstacle on the road.

There was ordinary negligence but no gross negligence 

Although there will be penalties, this defense helps lessen the charges. You can help get rid of the serious vehicular manslaughter in California charge and be charged only with manslaughter. An experienced criminal lawyer can prove that the driver did not act with gross negligence.

The negligence of the driver did not cause the death of the victim

Although it is admitted that the driver acted negligently, there were other elements that caused the death of the victim. For example, he died of a heart attack after the collision. 

Another is that when changing the channel the other driver was careless looking back. If the collision was not the direct cause of the person’s death, the charges could be dismissed or reduced.

The accident happened in the middle of an emergency

There are emergencies that arise suddenly while driving. For example, puncture a tire on the highway and move from the fast lane to the shoulder of the road. Also run out of brakes and seek to slow the vehicle in some way. 

As in any emergency, the most appropriate action is considered. Beyond the fact that things do not turn out as we expect. Making difficult decisions overwhelmed by circumstances cannot be charged as negligence regardless of the results.

The driver was wrongly accused

Witnesses who testify in these cases may be mistaken and mistakenly identify a driver. It could be that the driver was at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Perhaps also that despite being involved in the accident it was not who caused it.

There are other resources that criminal lawyers use in these cases. It is possible to demonstrate that the rights of the accused were violated during his arrest or through confiscation of property. 

A skilled car accident attorney can invoke other mitigating elements during the trial. You can negotiate probation with the prosecutor or change prison time for being community service. 

How to get compensation for death in a car accident?

California law allows family members of victims to claim compensation for fatal abuse. By filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, it is possible to recover certain available damages. 

Personal injury law recognizes wrongful death as a category of homicide. It is called wrongful death or wrongful death when one person dies from the negligent conduct of another. 

If a family member of yours died in a car accident, our attorneys can help you claim death compensation after a card accident. 

Lawyers for wrongful death due to traffic accident

Lluis Law’s attorneys have over 50 years of combined experience working in the California courts. We have helped hundreds of people accused of this crime to regain their freedom by protecting their constitutional rights.

In the free consultation we offer, we study each case in depth and draw up a successful defense strategy. We accompany our clients in each of the stages of the judicial process, from arrest to sentencing.

When we do not achieve full freedom for a defendant, we fight for procedural benefits or penalty substitution.


Call now and visit us. We will help you better understand your legal situation and ensure that you have the best Los Angeles motor vehicle murder attorneys at your service.