A Tragic Mistake Can Derail Your Future — San Diego Vehicular Manslaughter Defense Attorney
Even though most people would concede it is never a good idea to drive after a night of drinking, many people take this risk because they misjudge their ability to drive safely. Drivers who are intoxicated, distracted by a cell phone or otherwise negligent are involved in fatal crashes on a daily basis. Depending on the circumstances, you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if your negligence causes a collision that results in the death of another driver, passenger or pedestrian.
If you have been involved in a fatal car crash, you might feel overwhelmed by guilt or remorse even if you did not cause the traffic accident. While these feelings are natural, you should not make statements expressing such sentiments because they might be used against you if you are charged with vehicular manslaughter. Given the potentially severe penalties associated with a homicide caused by a motor vehicle accident, you should speak to no one until you have obtained legal advice.
San Diego criminal defense lawyer Isaac Blumberg represents clients in case across the spectrum from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies. Mr. Blumberg provides the experience and skill that can only be acquired by handling thousands of criminal matters. Assistant district attorneys aggressively prosecute vehicular manslaughter cases because they involve a fatality. When you confront this type of serious charge, you cannot afford to settle for a less experienced attorney who lacks significant trial experience. Mr. Blumberg has effectively represented clients in nearly thirty jury trials throughout Southern California.
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Types of Vehicular Manslaughter under the California Penal Code
There are essentially four separate types of vehicular manslaughter under the California Penal Code:
- Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter (PC Section 192[c])
- Gross Vehicular Manslaughter (PC Section 192[c])
- Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain (PC Section 192[c])
- Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (PC Section PC 191.5)
The primary distinction between a PC Section 192(c)(1) and PC Section 192(c)(2) offense involves the degree of negligence. A (c)(1) charge only applies in cases of “gross negligence” that demonstrate a genuine disregard for human life or the consequences of a driver’s actions while a (c)(2) charge may be based on “ordinary negligence”.
Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter (PC Section 192[c])
The prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant of this vehicular homicide offense:
- A motorist committed a traffic infraction or misdemeanor or committed a lawful act in a way likely to cause a fatality;
- The conduct was unsafe given the circumstances;
- The motorist was negligent; and
- The conduct caused the death of someone other than the accused.
The defining characteristic of this form of vehicular manslaughter is that it only requires ordinary negligence by the accused. A motorist’s conduct meets this standard if the accused fails to exercise reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to others.
The exposure for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter is up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter (PC Section 192[c])
The elements that the prosecutor must prove to obtain a conviction of gross vehicular manslaughter are the same as the misdemeanor variation of the offense except that a higher level of negligence is required. Gross negligence involves more than routine carelessness, lack of attention or miscalculation. The gross negligence required to support a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter involves the following:
- Reckless conduct that poses a high risk of causing great bodily injury or death; and
A reasonable individual would have known that the conduct created this serious risk.
An example of conduct that amounts to gross negligence might include a driver who kills the occupant of another vehicle in a head-on collision while engaging in a street race on a two lane highway.
Gross vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony based on the facts, circumstances and prior criminal record of the accused. The penalties for a violation include:
- Up to one year in county jail (and/or)
- Fine up to $1,000
- Summary probation
- Incarceration in state prison for 2, 4 or six years (and/or)
- Fine up to $10,000
- Formal probation
Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain (PC Section 192[c])
While this form of vehicular manslaughter is less common, it may be raised by insurance companies alleging fraud to avoid paying insurance settlements. This form of vehicular manslaughter requires that the prosecutor prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused knowingly participates or causes a crash while driving;
- The accused knows the purpose of the collision is to file a fraudulent insurance claim;
- The crash is to defraud another party or an insurance carrier; and
- The accident causes a fatality.
In short, this form of vehicular manslaughter involves accidentally causing a fatality during an intentional crash that is part of an insurance fraud scheme.
This form of vehicular homicide is a felony that carries a punishment of 4, 6 or 10 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (PC Section PC 191.5)
The charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated requires the prosecutor to prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused commits DUI (drugs or alcohol)
- The accused engages in either ordinary or gross negligence
- The accused commits a traffic infraction misdemeanor or lawful act that causes a fatality; and
- The violation causes a fatality.
A driver can be charged with this form of vehicular manslaughter based on either actual impaired mental or physical driving skills because of alcohol or drugs or a DUI “per se” violation because the driver’s BAC is .08 percent or higher.
Examples of situations that might result in a charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated:
- A driver who is speeding while approaching an intersection is unable to stop at a red light and T-bones a vehicle after ingesting cocaine, which causes the death of the other driver.
- A motorist with a BAC above .08 percent drifts into the adjacent lane and crashes head-on causing the death of a passenger in the other vehicle.
The punishment for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated will depend on whether the driver’s negligent driving conduct is based on ordinary or gross negligence. Conviction under this provision for either ordinary or gross negligence will result in a driver’s license suspension.
Ordinary Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated Penalty (PC 191.5[b])
The prosecutor can charge this offense as either a misdemeanor or felony. The misdemeanor can be punished by up to one year in county jail. If you are charged and convicted of a felony, the exposure can be 16 months, 2 years or 4 years in state prison.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated Penalty (PC 191.5[a])
This offense is a felony that carries a penalty of 4 years, 6 years or 10 years.
Zealous Advocacy When People Are Involved in Regrettable Accidents
When Isaac Blumberg defends individuals charged with vehicular manslaughter, he works closely with accident reconstruction experts and carefully analyzes law enforcement reports. Mr. Blumberg may employ a range of defense strategies that include:
- Challenging field sobriety and chemical testing
- Presenting evidence that the other driver was at-fault for causing the crash
- Demonstrating that the arresting officer’s observations were inaccurate
- Disputing that the accused was negligent
- Arguing that the crash was caused by a vehicle defect or unsafe roadway
These are just a few of the defenses that Mr. Blumberg might utilize when defending individuals charged with vehicular manslaughter in San Diego. He will aggressively defend your constitutional right and fight for your liberty, reputation and future. We invite you call us at 619-525-9911 to learn how we can help.
- All California State and Federal Courts
- University of Miami, 2001 BA Political Science
- Emory University School of Law, 2004, Juris Doctorate
Admitted To The Bar: 12/2004
Professional Memberships and Achievements
- State Bar of California
- San Diego North County Bar Association
- North County Bar Lawyer Referral Panel
- San Diego County Office of Assigned Counsel Panel Member
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
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