Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular Manslaughter is a charge an individual faces when he or she drives a vehicle and unintentionally, but unlawfully, kills another human being. This crime occurs when the death of a human being is caused by illegal driving of an automobile, including gross negligence, drunk driving, speeding or reckless driving.

In California, vehicle manslaughter may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and time spent in jail may vary widely.

California Penal Code Section 191.5 defines Manslaughter:

  • 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.
  • 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.

The penalties for vehicular manslaughter will also depend on prior conviction, if any, and the state the offender resides because state laws vary state by state.

Note: According to the the California Supreme Court in People v. Watson, 30 Cal. 3d 290, “Gross negligence,” as used in section A and section B, 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.”

For more information on possible charges an offered may face, please visit: http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/appndxa/penalco/penco191_5.htm

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