Vehicular Manslaughter

The charge of Vehicular Manslaughter can be brought if a death occurred as a result of a vehicle being driven in an unlawful manner, generally in violation of the California Vehicle Code. The exact criminal charge depends on many factors including but not limited to: whether the charged person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), what vehicle code or penal code sections were violated or were a contributing factor to the accident, and how many people were injured or killed.

While vehicular manslaughter is often charged as a felony, in reality it can be a misdemeanor. Whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. A misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge is often encountered where the charged driver was not intoxicated but because of a single vehicle code violation he or she causes a collision in which another person was killed. In contrast, a driver that is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and as a result causes a collision in which another person is killed will typically be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter.

Felony Vehicular Manslaughter while Driving Intoxicated

If a death results in connection with driving under the influence (DUI/DWI), the drunk driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. If a person has a prior DUI charge, that person can be charged with murder. This is because a driver who already has a conviction for a DUI is presumed to know the dangers of driving drunk. For that purpose the courts will most always advise all drivers convicted of a DUI related charge of the “Murder Admonition” under Vehicle Code section 23593(a):

"You are hereby advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your 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 you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and, as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder."

To prove a charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the prosecutor must prove the driver was:

  1. Driving under the influence (DUI),
  2. Negligently committed one or more unlawful acts, and
  3. That this negligent act or acts caused a death

A person convicted of a vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can face serious consequences, including a prison commitment of several years.

Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter

A misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge as usually brought in tragic circumstances where a driver caused a collision that resulted in the death of another person by simply violating one vehicle code section. The most common scenarios are collisions cause by speeding, unsafe turning movements, violating the right of way of pedestrians, and running a red light or disobeying a stop sign. The charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter can carry a punishment of up to one year in jail and several hundred dollars in fines and fees as well as severe driver’s license consequences.

The attorneys of Bonilla and Cintean, LLP have experience dealing with both felony and misdemeanor manslaughter cases. As former prosecutors both attorneys have been trained and have the insight on how to the government prepares the case. As defense attorneys they know how to best protect your rights and provide the best possible defense. Often in vehicular manslaughter case the DA will wait until the investigation is complete before filing charges. If you’ve been a driver in an accident where someone was seriously hurt or killed don’t wait for charges to be filed. Call one of the attorneys in our Sacramento firm for a consultation right away.