What Exactly Is Considered A Vehicular Manslaughter Under California Law?

There are two main categories of manslaughter; one involves intoxication and one does not. Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the elements of which are: 1) driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, a drug, or a combination of both; 2) committing an unlawful act that might cause death while driving under the influence; and 3) causing the death of another person as a result.

It is also a felony to commit all the same elements listed above, but instead of gross negligent conduct causing death, it is just ordinary negligent conduct causing the death.

The other category is just gross vehicular manslaughter and it does not involve alcohol or drugs. The elements being: the defendant drove a vehicle or operated a vessel, committed an unlawful act that might cause death, and caused a death with gross negligence.

How Do Police Determine Who Is The Negligent Or Reckless In A Vehicular Manslaughter Case?

After the first responding officers show up, typically an accident investigating officer will come out, who should be qualified to do an accident investigation. The investigating officers will take witness statements and canvas the area for any surveillance videos that might have captured any part of the incident. There could very well be chemical testing of the drivers for drugs or alcohol. There could be forensic examinations of the cars involved and even a download of the chip that maintains data about the cars and the cars’ movements, including braking, brake timing, and speed of the car. The investigating law enforcement agency or the district attorney may hire an accident reconstruction expert. There are also body-worn cameras and patrol car videos of law enforcement. Also, cellphone records may be obtained, which are relevant as to trying to assess whether a driver or drivers involved in the accident were on their cellphones while driving.

If I’m Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter, Will I Be Able To Get Out On Bond Or Bail While Awaiting My Case?

The bail schedule can vary significantly between counties. In San Francisco, right now, the bail schedule for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is $500,000. The same charge in San Mateo is $250,000. Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence, gross vehicular manslaughter as a felony, and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter are all eligible for bail. However, the district attorney is still allowed to attempt to detain a person without the ability to post bail, if certain public safety and flight concerns are proven to a judge.

What Are The Penalties Or Sentencing Guidelines If Convicted Of Vehicular Manslaughter Under California Law?

Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony. It carries four, six, or 10 years in prison. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence carries 16 months, two years, or four years in state prison. There is also vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence as a misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail.

Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a felony carries two, four, or six years in state prison. Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence can also be charged as a misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail. Finally, misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter carries up to one year in the county jail.

If you have a prior conviction, such as a vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or any type of DUI with injury conviction, and you get convicted of a gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, it is a 15-year to life sentence.

Is There Any Room For Reduction Of Sentencing When It Comes To First Time Offenders Or Is Alternative Sentencing Or Deferred Adjudication Available In These Types Of Cases?

Whether you are eligible for alternative sentencing or other options depends on the facts of your case, your prior driving record, and your prior criminal history. There are options available for certain individuals in these types of cases.

What Is California’s Procedures For Blood Alcohol Content Testing After An Accident When The Drivers Are Potentially Under The Influence?

First, the drivers would be offered a handheld breath test. This is typically a voluntary test, unless you are under 21 or on DUI probation. The second set of testing, after arrest, would be a blood test either at the hospital, police station, or jail, or an evidentiary grade breath test at a police station or jail. In an accident with moderate to severe injuries or death, the officer will likely influence the situation to have a blood draw conducted. In certain circumstances, a urine test is also available.

What Are Some Potential Defense Strategies That Can Be Used In Vehicular Manslaughter Cases?

The defense would want to seriously consider hiring a defense investigator who can canvas the area for surveillance videos and seek out witnesses to interview. Very often, officers don’t take statements from all the people who witness the event. Also, the defense will still want to retake the statements of witnesses the officers did speak to. Oftentimes, they have more to add or even a different narrative. The attorney should visit the scene personally and understand the conditions of the roadway, the traffic signals, and the traffic pattern. There is also a number of forensic experts who should be considered by your defense team, such as a forensic toxicologist, an accident reconstruction expert, or a human factors expert. We often hire civil defense counsel, who can represent the client in regards to the pending civil suit and deal with our client’s own insurance company.

For more information on Vehicular Manslaughter, an immediate case consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 484-0906 today.