When a person is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and is involved in a fatal accident, a charge of vehicular manslaughter usually ensues per California vehicle code 13350.5.
Any car accident or collision resulting in bodily injury or death is cause, under California law, for automatic chemical and alcohol testing of the persons involved, even if such persons are unconscious or even deceased.
Following an extensive investigation of the circumstances leading up to the accident, the District Attorney's Office will determine whether the vehicular manslaughter offense will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Many times, the circumstances involving a vehicular manslaughter offense fall under a "wobbler" category, meaning it could be a borderline misdemeanor or felony.
Gross negligence is defined by the DMV as driving with no caution or concern for the safety and wellbeing of other persons. If you are charged with gross negligence while driving under the influence, you will typically be charged with vehicular homicide, rather than manslaughter.
If negligence is established to the degree of a willful or depraved indifference to human life, the District Attorney will claim the offense constituted malice and may seek a conviction on second degree murder.
Vehicular homicide is always charged as a felony offense and does not qualify as a "wobbler".
California law allows for a vehicle to be classified as a deadly weapon in some cases, which allows for the more serious charge of homicide and consequential punishment.
A person charged with gross negligence in harming or causing the death of another person can also be liable for financial damages under civil law.
Vehicular manslaughter, on the under hand, is classified under involuntary manslaughter, which means a lack of malice, or intent to kill.
A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involve prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence of alcohol DUI or DWI, determined by excessive blood alcohol levels set by individual states, although an independent infraction, other infractions such as driving with a suspended driver's license, or negligence, is usually also required.
A law signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger requires, after July 1, 2008, that all people applying for a driver's license, or renewal of a driver's license, sign a declaration with the following language: “I am hereby advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If I drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result, a person is killed, I can be charged with murder.” (Veh. Code, § 13385, subd. (a).)
A California DUI related Vehicular Manslaughter case may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on a number of variable factors including culpability, intent to kill, and severe negligence. Any case of Vehicular manslaughter that resulted in the death of a motorist or pedestrian the prosecution may seek to establish felony manslaughter or a vehicular homicide case.(create link) If any offense that involved gross negligence resulted in death of a pedestrian, motorist, passenger, or bicyclist, it will invariably be charged as a felony.
It should be taken into consideration that the case may be influenced by MADD victim advocates assisting survivors and relatives of drunk driving fatalities.
There is a fine line between vehicular manslaughter and vehicular homicide. You will need an experienced aggressive DWI/DUI attorney who will fight for your rights. It is crucial to retain a knowledgeable attorney to avoid potential pitfalls and prepare the best defense possible. For anyone to die in a traffic accident is tragic, but it’s even more tragic when an innocent person is found guilty for manslaughter.
San Diego DUI Attorney G. Cole Casey provides the most aggressive, comprehensive, and effective representation available in Southern California.
G. Cole Casey is THE top DUI Defense Lawyer in San Diego County. His practice is dedicated exclusively to the defense of persons charged with DUI, DWI and Drunk Driving related crimes in Southern California.
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