Vehicular Manslaughter—Penal Code § 1922018-08-09T20:42:42+00:00

Have You Been Arrested or Charged With California Vehicular Manslaughter?

You Need The Best Los Angeles Vehicular Manslaughter Lawyer!

Types of Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular Manslaughter with Gross Negligence


Vehicular manslaughter—gross negligence under Penal Code § 192(c)(1) requires that the prosecutor prove the following elements:

  • The defendant committed a misdemeanor, infraction, or lawful act in a manner that might produce death while driving
  • The act was dangerous to human life
  • The act was committed with gross negligence
  • A person died as a result. [1]

Gross negligence is a higher standard than ordinary negligence.   It involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgement.  The law defines gross negligence as “acting in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury” when “a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.” [2]

To cause the death of another person, the death must be the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the defendant’s action [3].  A consequence is natural and probable if a reasonable person would know it is likely to happen.  If the death would have occurred without the action, the defendant is not legally responsible. However, the action does not need to be the only cause of death; it must be a “substantial factor.”

Ordinary Vehicular Manslaughter


If the conduct doesn’t rise to the level of gross negligence, the offense will be charged as misdemeanor (or ordinary) vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code § 192(c)(2).

The prosecutor will have to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant committed a misdemeanor, infraction, or lawful act in a manner that might produce death while driving
  • The act was dangerous to human life
  • A person died as a result. [4]

Unlike gross negligence vehicular manslaughter, for ordinary vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutor must only prove that the defendant committed the act with ordinary negligence. [5]

Ordinary negligence is simply “the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to oneself or someone else.” [6]  A defendant is negligent if he or she does something a reasonably careful person would not do in that situation, or fails to do something a reasonably careful person would do.

Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain


Generally, vehicular manslaughter for financial gain is the crime of accidentally killing a person while deliberately wrecking a vehicle in order to make a false insurance claim. [7]

The prosecutor will have to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant knowingly caused or participated in a collision while driving a vehicle
  • The defendant knew the purpose of the collision was to make a false insurance claim for financial gain
  • The defendant had the intent to defraud the insurance company or another party
  • The collision caused a death

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated


If the defendant was intoxicated while driving, the offense will be charged as vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under Penal Code § 191.5.  Like vehicular manslaughter, there are separate offenses for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with gross negligence and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence.  These offenses have the same elements as their Penal Code § 192(c) counterparts, with the additional element that the defendant be intoxicated while driving.

Driving while “intoxicated” means driving while either “under the influence” as defined in Vehicle Code § 23152(a), with a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) of 0.08% or higher (or 0.05% or higher if under 21 years old), or “under the influence of drugs” as defined under Vehicle Code § 23152(e). [8]

Vehicular manslaughter is a “lesser included offense” of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.  If the prosecutor cannot prove the defendant was intoxicated but can prove the elements of vehicular manslaughter, the defendant can be convicted of the lesser included offense.

Vehicular Homicide (Watson Murder)


The most serious cases of deaths caused while driving under the influence are not prosecuted as vehicular manslaughter; they are charged as murder.  If a defendant has previously been convicted of a DUI offense and has been educated about the dangers of driving under the influence (usually by a “Watson advisement” given by the court during the previous DUI case), the defendant can be charged with vehicular homicide under Penal Code § 187. [9]

You Need The Best Vehicular Manslaughter Defense Lawyer!

Free Consultation, High Success Rate, Affordable Rates, Payment Plans

Se Habla Español

CALL NOW 8773758188

See Our Reviews

Moaddel Law Firm | Los Angeles Criminal Defense AttorneysMoaddel Law Firm
Stars - Based on User Reviews
Daniel MoaddelReviewsout of 115 reviews

Awards and Affiliations

Lawyer.com icon
Best Lawyers Best Law Firms U.S. News & World Report 2018 Moaddel Law Firm Best Criminal Defense Law Firm
Attorney Client Satisfaction American Institute of Attorneys
The National Trial Laywers Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyers Moaddel Law Firm Best Criminal Defense Attorney

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter


Vehicular manslaughter as a result of ordinary negligence is a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

However, vehicular manslaughter as a result of gross negligence is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.   The prosecutor will look at the circumstances of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history, if any, to determine whether to charge the offense as a misdemeanor or felony.  If charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is one year in jail.

If charged as a felony, the punishment is two, four, or six years in state prison.  This offense is a strike. Under federal immigration law, it is a crime involving moral turpitude, and may be an aggravated felony based on the sentence imposed.

This offense also carries a fine.  For misdemeanors, the fine can be up to $1,000.  For felonies, the fine can be up to $10,000.

Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain is always a felony.  A defendant faces four, six, or ten years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The offense is a strike.  Under federal immigration law, it is a crime involving moral turpitude, and may be an aggravated felony based on the sentence imposed.

Suspension of Driver’s License

Under Vehicle Code § 13351, the DMV is required to revoke your driver’s license for three years if you are convicted of gross negligence vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code § 192(c)(1) or vehicular manslaughter for financial gain under Penal Code § 193(c)(3).  

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated without gross negligence is a wobbler, punished by either up to one year in county jail, or 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison [10]. If charged as a felony, the offense is a strike, and may be an aggravated felony under federal immigration law

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with gross negligence is a felony, and is punishable by four, six, or ten years in state prison.  This offense is a strike. Under federal immigration law, this offense is a crime involving moral turpitude and may be an aggravated felony.

What Are The Best or Most Common Vehicular Manslaughter Defenses?


  • Emergency: If your driving was a response to an accident or emergency, such as swerving to avoid an oncoming vehicle, you did not act negligently, and you cannot be guilty of vehicular manslaughter.
  • Causation: Even if you drove negligently, you cannot be convicted of vehicular manslaughter if your actions were not a substantial factor in the victim’s death.  
  • Intoxication: Just like any other driving under the influence case, if the prosecutor cannot prove you were intoxicated, by either BAC level or subjective symptoms, you cannot be guilty of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. You can, however, still be guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

Vehicular manslaughter charges carry serious penalties, including immigration consequences and the suspension of a driver’s license.  An attorney with experience in vehicular manslaughter defense can use the defenses above, as well as others, to keep a vehicular manslaughter conviction off your record.  Call our office at 877-375-8188 for a free consultation with the best vehicular manslaughter defense attorneys, who can evaluate the details of your case for potential defenses.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter?


  • Do not speak to the police.  If police try to question you, politely but firmly tell them that you do not wish to speak to them and that you are invoking your constitutional rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present during any questioning.
  • Do not speak to the victim’s family or witnesses.  You may be feeling guilt about the victim’s death and want to apologize; however, you may not be legally at fault for their death. Do not make any admissions of guilt before speaking to an attorney.
  • Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you in your California vehicular manslaughter case.  Call Moaddel Law Firm today at 877-375-8188 for a FREE case evaluation.

Resources


Penal Code Text

California Penal Code § 192(c) defines vehicular manslaughter as causing the death of another person by negligently driving a vehicle.

Penal Code § 192(c) reads:

“(c) Vehicular [manslaughter definition]– (1) Except as provided in subdivision (a) of Section 191.5, driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony, and with gross negligence; or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence. (2) Driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony, but without gross negligence; or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence. (3) Driving a vehicle in connection with a violation of paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) of Section 550, where the vehicular collision or vehicular accident was knowingly caused for financial gain and proximately resulted in the death of any person. This provision shall not be construed to prevent prosecution of a defendant for the crime of murder.”