DUI Manslaughter Laws In California


A recent and particularly gruesome DUI incident in Oceanside made news around the world. In the early morning of June 27, a 29-year-old woman who was driving under the influence veered onto the sidewalk and hit a homeless man near her home in Oceanside. She was driving so fast that the impact forced the man through the woman’s windshield, tearing off his clothes as he flew through the windshield, falling crumpled up in the passenger seat. But it gets worse than that. The woman continued driving for about one-half to one mile with the dead man in her front seat. The man’s leg had been severed from his body and went flying through the rear windshield landing on the trunk of the car. After she stopped her car, she got out and walked away. She walked home but she didn’t get away for long; her husband called the cops.

The driver’s blood alcohol level was tested two hours after the crash and registered twice the legal limit. She is facing four felony charges: Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated (Penal Code §191.5(a); Hit and Run (Vehicle Code §20002); Driving with Measurable Blood Alcohol Causing Injury and DUI with Injury (Vehicle Code §§25153(a) & (b)). The judge set her bail at $1.5 million.

Not all DUI crashes are this horrendous but drivers under the influence cause many deaths on our roads and highways every year. And the deaths aren’t always caused by drunken drivers. In Orange County alone, there are all too frequent stories about drivers under the influence of drugs killing pedestrians, bicyclists or causing fatal crashes. A few weeks before the Oceanside incident a woman driving with her two children in the car drove up on a sidewalk in Costa Mesa and struck a man who later died of his injuries. The woman was suspected of driving under the influence of drugs and was arrested on that charge as well as vehicular manslaughter.

Just a quick Google search of DUI-related deaths in Orange County will bring up more results that any of us want to see. This is a tragedy and it is not just one caused by drunken driving or driving under the influence of illegal drugs. Many of the vehicular deaths are caused by drivers under the influence of prescription drugs. You may recall an incident several years ago when an Irvine woman ran over and killed a popular elementary school teacher who was out for an evening bicycle ride. The driver was under the influence of prescription medication (anti-depressant and a sleeping pill) when she lost control of her vehicle on PCH and hit the teacher. That driver was convicted by of jury of vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in state prison.

These incidents remind us that it is a bad idea to get behind the wheel while under the influence of any substance that affects your brain. Next time you have been drinking or took a drug – even certain prescription drugs – but think you’re “okay” to drive, consider that your reaction times are slowed and your judgment may be clouded. Your decision could become the next tragedy.

Unfortunately, when our judgment is clouded, we make poor decisions and get behind the wheel anyway. If you have caused an injury or death while driving under the influence, you need an attorney with specialized experience defending these serious charges. William Weinberg has that experience and is available to speak with you about your particular matter. You can contact Mr. Weinberg at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or email him at bill@williamweinberg.com.