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Vehicular Manslaughter Law & Defense
VC 191.5 & 192 Crimes
The laws on the crime of Vehicular Manslaughter are found at penal codes 191.5 & 192(c). Vehicular manslaughter crimes are classified under two categories: Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (PC 191.5), and Vehicular manslaughter without intoxication but with negligence (PC 192(c)). There are several subcategories of each of these crimes.
Vehicular Manslaughter Laws
PC 191.5: Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unintentional killing of another person while the defendant was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a combination of both drugs and alcohol (PC 191.5 Abbrev.). Punishments differ depending on what subcategory of PC 191.5 is charged (See Below)
Note: Under the influence simply means that the level alcohol or drugs, or combination of alcohol and drugs in the defendant's body is sufficient to impair his or her ability to drive an automobile. The impairment does not have to be a significant level. Any impairment, even if slight, is sufficient for purposes of driving while intoxicated. Also, it does not matter if the impairment was caused by legal or illegal drugs.
PC 192(c): Vehicular manslaughter with negligence is the unintentional killing of another person as a result of a person not using the ordinary care in driving as a reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances (PC 192(c) Abbrev.). Punishments differ depending on what subcategory of PC 192(c) is charged (See Below). Common examples of conduct that leads to vehicular manslaughter charges include:
Failure to obey a stop sign which leads to accidental death
Driving in excess of a safe speed which leads to accidental death
Reversing without using caution which lead to accidental death
Failure to drive safely near a cross walk leading to accidental death
Note: If the defendant did not intend to kill another person with a vehicle, but nevertheless did kill another person with a vehicle, then the defendant could be charged with murder, as opposed to the much lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter, if the defendant's driving was so reckless that it amounted to a high degree of probability that a person would die as a result of such reckless driving. For example, if the defendant purposefully drove on the freeway in the opposite direction of traffic and someone dies as a result of such reckless driving, then the defendant will likely be charged with murder, not vehicular manslaughter (See Malignant Heart Murder).
PC 191.5(a): Vehicular manslaughter while DUI and with gross negligence (Charged as a felony with a maximum sentence of 9 years in jail)
PC 191.5(b): Vehicular manslaughter while DUI but without gross negligence (Charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Maximum sentence is 4 years in jail for a felony conviction and 1 year in jail for a misdemeanor conviction).
PC 191.5(d): Vehicular manslaughter while DUI and a prior conviction for DUI (Charged as a felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison).
PC 192(c)(1): Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and without DUI (Charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Maximum sentence is 6 years in prison for a felony conviction and 1 year in jail for a misdemeanor conviction)
PC 192(c)(2): Vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence (Charged as a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail).
Probation Sentence: A Probation sentence is a period of supervision instead of a jail or prison sentence. A probation sentence is allowed in all vehicular manslaughter cases, but they are not guaranteed. Whether or not a defendant is granted a probation sentence in a PC 191.5 or 192(c) case depends on many factors, including the egregiousness of the defendant's conduct and the defendant's criminal history (among other factors).
Note: Most probation sentences in vehicular manslaughter cases will include a condition of probation that the defendant serve some type of alternate jail sentence, such as work release or house arrest. These alternate jail sentences are generally much shorter than if the defendant was not granted a probation sentence in the first place.
Additional penalties include: Fines and fees, civil lawsuits, restitution, denial of entry into the armed services (Army, Navy, Space Force, Marines, etc.), loss of a professional license, loss of immigration status (deportation or denial of reentry into the United States), loss of driving privileges, and more.
Common defenses to vehicular manslaughter include: insufficient evidence to prove blood alcohol concentration (BAC for DUI), mistake of fact, insufficient evidence to prove negligence, coerced confessions, emergency, statute of limitations and more.
Note: Vehicular manslaughter requires a finding that the defendant was the proximate cause of the victim's death. This means that even if the defendant was negligent in his or he driving, it must be that negligence that caused the victim's death. For example, if a driver is intoxicated while otherwise legally stopped at a red light and that driver is rear ended by a driver who is killed upon impact, then the intoxicated driver is not guilty of vehicular manslaughter because the driver's negligence is not what caused the death of the other driver.
To learn more about the California crime of vehicle manslaughter, or PC 191.5 & 192(c)), including defenses to these crimes, contact criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense lawyers are always available to answer your questions and discuss your defense options. Call today!
Vehicular Manslaughter DUI PC 191.5(a)
Vehicular Manslaughter DUI W/Prior PC 191.5(c)
Voluntary Manslaughter PC 192(a)
Involuntary Manslaughter PC 192(b)
Vessel Manslaughter DUI PC 192.5(a)
Vessel Manslaughter Gross Negligence PC 192.5(c)