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California DUI Vehicular Manslaughter Laws

Penal Code Section 191.5 defines Gross Vehicular Manslaughter as:

(a) The unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence. A conviction of 191.5(a) is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 4, 6, or 10 years.

(b)  The unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.  A conviction of 191.5(b) is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months or two or four years.

You may be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated if you: (1) Are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; (2) Your actions could result in the death of another; and (3) Someone is killed as a result of your negligence.

Being involved in an accident where someone dies is a devastating experience for anyone.  But if you are involved in a fatal accident, and you have been drinking, the devastation is magnified by extreme guilt and fear.  However, is important to remember that there are defenses to this type of charge.  It is common for authorities to assume and place blame on the driver who has been drinking whenever there is an accident involved.  But, just because you have been drinking doesn’t and shouldn’t automatically mean that the accident was your fault.  An experienced criminal defense attorney, who has experience in dealing with DUI involving accidents, will know what defenses are available and know how to use them when appropriate.  A few examples of defenses to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated are:

(a) that you were not intoxicated at the time of the accident.  It could be that you had had a drink or two but are not legally intoxicated.  An experienced DUI defense attorney will use all defense available in a typical DUI arrest such as challenging the blood alcohol results and the tests performed.

(b) your actions were not negligent or grossly negligent;

(c) your actions, whether negligent or not, was not what caused the death; and

(d) your actions were the result of a situation that happened suddenly and you acted accordingly.

Every case and every situation is unique in it’s own way.  When facing a charge as serious as Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while intoxicated, finding the right criminal defense attorney who will explore every defense possible, can make the difference between jail time and straight probation.