The law regarding vehicular manslaughter in California is lengthy and often confusing to those who don’t work in the legal field. It’s defined as causing the death of someone else while driving by either being negligent by committing an illegal or legal act behind the wheel. It’s not easy to understand what it means as well as the many fine points that go along with the state’s penal code, but it’s a serious crime and it’s punished severely. It occurs only when life is lost, and that is never a crime the state takes lightly.
Examples of Vehicular Manslaughter
If someone dies because you are driving your vehicle and cause an accident, it’s vehicular manslaughter even if it was a tragic accident. It doesn’t matter if what you were doing while driving was illegal or legal. For example, if you were turned around behind the wheel to grab your toddler’s cup off the floor and you hit someone, you were not doing anything illegal behind the wheel. However, you were negligent as you knew it was dangerous to turn around and look at anything other than the road while you were driving.
If you were driving and you were drunk, you were doing something illegal while also being negligent. You’re facing jail time, penalties and fines that could reach well into the thousands of dollars, and you’re also facing potential lawsuits if the surviving family of the victim wants to sue you for wrongful death, pain and suffering, or medical bills. It’s a long road, and it’s not one you want to go down.
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter
The penalties given to those found guilty of vehicular manslaughter in California are dependent upon whether the driver acted with gross or ordinary negligence. Gross negligence occurs when the driver is doing something illegal while driving such as texting or drinking and driving. Ordinary negligence occurs when the driver was doing something that’s not illegal but still managed to cause an accident in which someone’s life was taken.
Vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence is a misdemeanor. You face up to one year in county jail. Gross negligence is more serious, and it depends on the prosecutor in the case. It’s a ‘wobbler’ law, which means it can go one of two ways. The prosecutor could decide to charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor, and it might come down to your own criminal history or lack thereof. If you’re charged with a felony, you’re facing up to six years in prison.
Defense Against Vehicular Manslaughter
There are some defenses you can use if you are arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter. If, for example, a man ran out into the road without using a crosswalk or checking for traffic and you were unable to avoid hitting him, you are not guilty of causing his death. He caused it himself when he chose not to follow the rules of the road. it could change things in court. If you were not negligent, you can defend yourself on that basis.
Additionally, you are legally able to defend yourself against a vehicular manslaughter charge if you were in an emergency situation and acting accordingly per the circumstances. For example, if you were driving down the street when a child ran out into the street in front of your car, you swerved to avoid hitting the child and instead hit another vehicle head-on. You did what you felt was right in the situation to avoid hitting a child.
If you’re involved in a car accident and someone dies, do not wait to contact an attorney. Vehicular manslaughter is a serious crime, and you have a right to defend yourself even if you’re feeling guilty for taking a life. Your life and your future are also important, and you have a right to defend yourself in a court of law. Your attorney can help you fight your case, prove you did not intend to take any lives, and even help you defend yourself against a gross negligence case. Call an attorney and fight for your own freedom following an accident of this nature.
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