California has strict laws governing how drivers should act while driving. Drivers must be aware of other drivers on the road to avoid collisions that could result in personal injuries or damage to property. Driving carelessly or irresponsibly might potentially result in another person's death. If this occurs, the reckless drivers may be prosecuted and face harsh penalties.

If you’re facing vehicular manslaughter charges, you should contact an attorney immediately since the penalties for these convictions are severe. We, at Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, have extensive expertise in defending clients accused of vehicular manslaughter. Our attorneys in Pasadena will present evidence to the court and fight vigorously to have the charges reduced or dismissed.

How California Law Defines Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter is defined under PC 192, California's manslaughter statutes. Vehicular manslaughter, often known as vehicular homicide, occurs when an individual other than the reckless or negligent driver is killed in a vehicle collision. These charges arise from either gross negligence or carelessness caused by the motorist.

The motorist can face accidental vehicular manslaughter charges if they are found to be criminally negligent. Anyone could fall as a casualty of a vehicular manslaughter act, including pedestrians, other drivers, or passengers in the vehicle the accused was operating.

California law recognizes three main categories of vehicular manslaughter:

  • Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain
  • Gross negligence vehicular manslaughter
  • Ordinary vehicular manslaughter

1.  California PC 192 (C)(i) Gross Negligence Vehicular manslaughter

PC 192(c)(i) defines vehicular manslaughter as gross negligence. The prosecution has to demonstrate each of the components of the offense listed below for the defendant to be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

  • You perpetrated an infraction or a misdemeanor while operating a vehicle, or you perpetrated a legal action in a way that could have caused the death of another person
  • Given the circumstances, the offense you perpetrated was hazardous to other people
  • You perpetrated that offense with gross carelessness
  • Someone else passed away as a result of your actions

An in-depth clarification of a few of these concepts is provided below:

A Legal Act, an Infraction, or a Misdemeanor that Could Result in the Death of Another Person

To be charged with a vehicular manslaughter offense, you have to:

  • Perpetrate a California offense that’s not classified as a felony
  • Perpetrate a legal action in a fashion that is probable to cause the demise of someone else

You should keep in mind that for vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code 192(c) allegations to be made, the unlawful act you perpetrated shouldn't have been classified as a felony. This is because, according to the felony-murder law, the prosecution would probably prosecute you with murder if you had caused the death of someone else with an automobile while perpetrating a felony.

Gross Negligence Under PC 192 (C)(i)

According to PC 192(C)(i), vehicular manslaughter must be proven to have occurred with gross carelessness. If the prosecution cannot establish that the defendant committed the act with gross carelessness, he or she might only be charged with a misdemeanor or standard vehicular manslaughter charges.

Gross negligence goes beyond simple carelessness, lack of attention, or misjudgment. Gross negligence happens if:

  • An individual engages in behavior that is irresponsible and elevates the threat of someone dying as a result of significant physical harm
  • A sensible individual would have understood that taking that action would bring about such a consequence

Gross negligence occurs when a defendant acts so distinctively from how a normally cautious individual would behave in a similar scenario that his/her actions demonstrate a genuine disdain for other people's lives or the repercussions of his or her acts.

Resulting in Another Person's Death

Penal Code 192(c)(i) states that you must have caused the demise of someone else as a direct outcome of your gross negligence to be charged with gross negligence vehicular manslaughter. Therefore, death has to be the result of natural, direct, and probable repercussions of your actions. To put it another way, it should be the sort of thing that a sensible individual would conclude would occur.

2.  Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter Under PC 192(C)(ii)

The offense of misdemeanor/ordinary vehicular manslaughter is defined under PC 192(c)(ii). The following are the components of this act:

  • You perpetrated an infraction, a misdemeanor offense, or illegally perpetrated a legal act while operating a motor vehicle
  • Given the scenario, the offense you perpetrated was hazardous to other people's lives
  • You perpetrated that offense with ordinary negligence
  • Another individual died as a result of your action

The primary distinction between vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and ordinary vehicular manslaughter charges would be that vehicular manslaughter merely calls for negligence to be found guilty. Ordinary negligence, as defined by Penal Code 192(c)(ii), is when you neglect to take reasonable precautions to stop someone else from suffering sensibly predictable harm.

3.  Vehicular Manslaughter Acts For Monetary Gain Under PC 192(C)(iii)

This is a distinct category that is covered by Penal Code 192(C)(iii). This happens when:

  • While operating an automobile, you recklessly cause or take part in an accident
  • You do this while being aware that the objective behind the incident is to file a fraudulent compensation claim in an attempt to benefit financially (perpetrate automobile insurance fraud)
  • Also, you act intending to swindle the insurance provider or another entity
  • The accident results in death

To put it another way, if you intentionally wreck a vehicle to perpetrate insurance fraud and unintentionally kill someone as a result, this act will be deemed vehicular manslaughter.

Penalties For Vehicular Manslaughter Under California Penal Code 192(C)

The consequences, penalties, and sentences for California Penal Code 192(c) vehicular manslaughter vary according to the act the defendant committed.

Penalties For California PC 192(C)(i) Vehicular Manslaughter With Gross Negligence

According to PC 192(C)(1), this offense is charged as a wobbler. That implies that it could be prosecuted as a felony offense or a misdemeanor, based on the details of the act, as well as, your criminal background.

The following are possible repercussions if you’re convicted of ordinary vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence under Penal Code 192(C)(i):

  • Summary/misdemeanor probation
  • A jail sentence that could last a year
  • A sum of a maximum of $1,000 in fines.

The following are possible consequences if you have been found guilty of felony charges under Penal Code 192(c)(i) vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence :

  • Formal or felony probation
  • A sentence of two, four, or six years in state prison
  • A sum of a maximum of $10,000 in fines.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter Under Penal Code 192(C)(ii)

According to PEN 192(c)(ii), ordinary or misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter is an offense that bears the following penalties:

  • Summary or misdemeanor probation
  • A maximum sentence of one year in jail
  • A sum of a maximum of $1,000 in fines

Penalties For Vehicular Manslaughter For Monetary Profit Under Penal Code 192(C)(iii)

According to Penal Code 192(c)(iii) PC, vehicular manslaughter committed for monetary benefit or insurance coverage is always charged as a felony. The possible penalties encompass a maximum fine of $10,000, or 4, six, or ten years in California state prison.

Suspension of Your Driver's License

The California Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driving privileges if you’re found guilty of either Penal Code 192(c)(i) gross negligence vehicular manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter for monetary benefit under Penal Code 192(c)(iii).

Additionally, it will take a minimum of three years from the date when the revocation happened before you can apply to have your driver's license reinstated. According to California Vehicle Code 14601, you will be charged with additional fees for operating a vehicle while your license has been suspended if you do so.

Legal Defenses For Penal Code 192(c) Charges

There is no denying the fact that road accidents do occur when we drive. But occasionally, in response to tragic catastrophes, law enforcement officers and prosecutors can bring vehicular manslaughter allegations, even when they are unfounded or unjust.

When this occurs to you, you may be able to defend yourself against Penal Code 192(c) allegations by employing several lawful defenses with the assistance of a defense attorney to have the charges reduced or dismissed. A few of these are:

You Didn’t Act With Gross Negligence or Negligence

It can be challenging to establish both gross negligence and negligence in cases of vehicular manslaughter. Both definitions guide to a "sensible individual" standard of conduct, which, despite sounding objective, is extremely subjective and challenging to articulate.

Many of us who operate vehicles can make snap judgments, and it could be challenging to prove that these judgments, even though they ultimately prove to be poor, were so poor as to constitute negligence.

Alternatively, if you’re accused of gross negligence vehicular manslaughter under PC 192(c)(ii), your lawyer might be capable of convincing the court that your acts were only negligent and not particularly gross. This can significantly lessen your prospective penalties and spare you from the mandatory three-year driving license suspension.

Your Actions Did Not Result in the Death of the Victim

It can be difficult to determine causation and effect when there has been a vehicle accident. Even though your actions caused death by driving negligently or acting with gross negligence, there’s a possibility that the prosecutor won't be able to show that your negligence, instead of the carelessness of the car accident victim or even a 3rd party, resulted in the passing away and that you're therefore guilty of vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code 192(c).

An intelligent and capable criminal defense lawyer will be able to refute the prosecution's version of events, usually with the assistance of reconstruction specialists.

You Were Faced With an Unexpected Emergency and You Responded Appropriately to the Situation

If the accused was confronted with a quick and unpredictable emergency, according to California law on vehicular manslaughter, she or he is simply obliged to exercise the same caution and discretion that a normally cautious person would exercise in a similar scenario. If the defendant followed through, they weren't negligent or blatantly negligent.

Let's suppose you drove into oncoming vehicles, but you decided to do that to avoid driving over a pile of debris or striking a deer, both of which would have severely damaged your vehicle. You may contend that your actions were not sufficiently negligent given these circumstances to warrant a conviction for vehicular manslaughter under California PEN 192(c).

Offenses Related to PC 192(c) Charges

Various similar offenses can be charged in place of or in addition to vehicular manslaughter charges under PC 192(c).

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Inebriated Under California PC 191.5

Vehicular manslaughter while inebriated under Penal Code 192(C) is a distinct and separate offense from that of vehicular manslaughter as outlined under Penal Code 191.5. This statute is only relevant if it's proven that you had been driving while intoxicated or had been under the effect of drugs and/or alcohol when you caused the death of someone else.

According to Penal Code 191.5(a), gross vehicular manslaughter while inebriated is the illegal killing of another person while operating a vehicle with gross carelessness.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated With No Gross Negligence

When someone drives while intoxicated, they are either:

  • DUI as described under California VC 23152(a)
  • While having a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.80 or higher as stipulated under California VC 23152(b), or
  • Having a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.05 or above while under the age of 21; or
  • While Driving Under the Influence of drugs as per VC 23152(f)

Vehicular manslaughter while inebriated with no gross carelessness is prosecuted as a wobbler that carries a maximum term of one year behind bars or a maximum term of sixteen, two, or three years in state prison. However, according to California PC 191.5, gross vehicular manslaughter while inebriated is a crime punishable by four, six, or ten years in state prison.

Vehicular manslaughter under California PC 192(c) is a minor included charge (which means that it is an offense within a more severe offense) of Vehicular Manslaughter when the motorist is inebriated under California PC 191.5.

Therefore, if the prosecution cannot prove to the court that you had been intoxicated past a shadow of doubt despite being accused of vehicular manslaughter while inebriated, you could be found guilty of Penal Code 192(c) instead.

Watson Murder/DUI Murder

If you've ever received a DUI conviction in California and later cause the demise of someone else due to a DUI-related accident, you could be accused of murder and sentenced to at least fifteen years to life imprisonment. The term "Watson Murder" comes from the trial People v. Watson, wherein a defendant's several previous DUI records were used against him during a 2nd-degree murder prosecution based on inferred malice as the legal concept.

When a defendant engages in a particular type of behavior, such as driving while drunk, knowing that there are significant and deadly risks associated, such behavior is categorized as having implied malice and is considered to put other people's lives in jeopardy and lead to the death of someone else.

People who have previously been convicted of DUI are typically targeted for Watson Murder charges. A defendant's prior charges or convictions frequently simplify things to show the implied malice aspect, since their previous conviction renders them informed of the possible risks of driving while drunk.

If you've been found guilty of a California DUI, you'll be required to attend and complete DUI-related courses to regain your driver's license. People learn about the inherent risks of driving while intoxicated in such sessions as well as by participating in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving initiative.

The Watson advisement, a waiver informing an accused of the risks associated with drunk driving and the possibility that they could face murder charges when they repeat the acts subsequently, is required to be signed by the accused in the majority, if not every one of the counties in California.

California Vehicular Manslaughter FAQS

The following are some of the most commonly asked questions on California vehicular manslaughter charges:

How will the prosecutors decide whether they should file misdemeanor or felony charges for vehicular manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter charges are classified as "wobbler offenses," which suggests you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the details of your specific case as well as your previous criminal background. The prosecutor will examine the police statement and pay close attention to how you acted at the moment of the accident to reach this conclusion.

The crime will probably be treated as a felony if you had been driving recklessly, negligently, or completely disregarding traffic rules. The prosecutors will also look into your past criminal background to see if you do have any records for crimes relating to driving. If it is your first incident involving a vehicle and you hold a spotless driving record, the prosecutors will probably file the act as a misdemeanor offense.

Can I be held accountable for vehicular manslaughter if the deceased was a passenger in my car?

Yes. It doesn't matter if the individual who died as a result of your careless behavior was a passenger inside your car or someone else's.

What is meant by "ordinary negligence"?

It is necessary to have displayed ordinary negligence to be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter. Ordinary negligence is described as failing to take reasonable precautions to avoid harm to oneself or another person. When you act in a way that a normal, sane person wouldn't have acted in that situation. or if you do not do something that a regular, sane person would have done, you are said to be acting negligently.

Is it viable to lower a vehicular manslaughter charge to a lesser charge?

It is. The charges could be dropped entirely or lessened if the prosecutor is not able to demonstrate each element of the offense. Therefore, you must hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer to review the specifics of your situation and create an efficient defense plan.

What Happens If You Leave The Scene After Committing Vehicular Manslaughter?

Fleeing from an accident site is not a good idea. This aggravates the situation. It is imperative to hang around the accident area until the police show up. Additionally, you should get in touch with a lawyer right away and avoid accepting responsibility even though you believe you are at fault.

The California law mandates that motorists should stop and share their names, addresses, as well as insurance information, and contact information. You must also present yourself to the law enforcement officers who respond to the scene of the accident under the law. It is also wise to assist the wounded in any way you can, such as calling for immediate assistance.

According to California law, if you leave the scene of the accident and are found guilty of vehicular manslaughter, the court will increase your sentence by five more years. It makes no difference whether you committed the crime while intoxicated or sober. If the court pursues the act as a felony offense, vehicular manslaughter may be a strike charge under California's three-strike statute.

Find a Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Loss of any human life is tragic, particularly if it occurs in an accident that you were involved in. Even more devastating are the subsequent vehicular manslaughter allegations that follow a defendant. If you've been accused of vehicular manslaughter in Pasadena, CA, you need the finest legal counsel to avert the harshest penalties. At the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we have a capable criminal defense team of attorneys in place to make sure that your rights are always well-protected and defend you. If you're facing charges for vehicular manslaughter, give us a call today at 626-628-0564.