LEARN HOW PROSECUTORS DEAL WITH VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER CASES IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY COURTS
In the 25 years that I have been practicing criminal defense I have defended many clients for vehicular manslaughter related offenses. When a person is driving a car and a death occurs because of their actions, the prosecutors have a number of choices as to what type of charges they can file on the case. They can file the case as an Involuntary Manslaughter offense, Vehicular Manslaughter or even Second Degree Murder. The differences between these charges is significant, however the elements of each crime are quite murky when compared to each other.
- What Is Considered Vehicular Manslaughter Under California State Law?
- Can A Non-Driver Be Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter?
The fact that a particular area of law is confusing is a receipe for the prosecutors to abuse their discretion and improperly file cases in a harsh manner. This is why having a battle tested criminal defense attorney, who is school in this area of the law is essential. If your attorney does not know how to manuever this area of law, you will be dead in the water. I have seen the police, prosecutors and judges alike try and misfile rediculous charges against defendants that put them in a horrible position and facing many years in prison. It takes know how, guts and a passion for doing what is right to combat this practice.
WHEN CAN THE PROSECUTORS PROVE MURDER VERSUS VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER?
In order to achieve a conviction for murder when it comes to a person driving a car and killing someone, the prosecutors must show that the driver appreciated the risk of their actions and acted with wanton disregard for human life. This means that the driver must have displayed a depraved heart in their actions toward society in general and the person they killed. This definition is not easy to define or explain, so it comes down to what the jury thinks is the right thing to do based on what happened and the actions of the particular defendant. This is a dangerous situation to say the least. Results are unpredicable and can end in disaster for the criminal defendant.
An example of a murder case is a scenario where the driver involved has a prior dui on their record and is specifically told that if they continue to drive with alcohol in their system and someone is killed as a result of their actions, then they will be charge with murder for the death (by the way, the courts do this in every dui in Los Angeles). This is a real clear and fair example of when the prosecutor can charge a person with murder, because they were specifically warned and told what would happen if they did it again.
However, if the person does not have a prior dui and drinks alcohol and drives, then they too could be charge with murder. The facts surrounding the case will usually dictate whether the prosecutors will be successful. For example, the prosecutors can argue, who in today’s day and age does not know that it is dangerous to drink alcohol and drive? If the jury agrees, then they may be able to make a run at this person for a murder charge.
WHEN WILL A CASE BE CHARGED AS VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHER VERSUS MURDER
For a vehicular manslaughter charge, the prosecutors must prove that the defendant acted with gross negligence and a death occurred. The difference between gross negligence and a wanton disregard for human life still has not been defined by the legislature or courts in a clear manner. I seen cases being filed with either charge, at the whim of the prosecutors. This is why it is so important to have an attorney that can fight for you when you are improperly charged or you are properly charged, but the proscutors want to send you to prison for a long time.
Usually where you see vehicular manslaughter cases being filed is when there is no alcohol or drugs involved and someone is driving recklessly and a death occurs. The prosecutors usually do not feel a murder charge is warranted in this scenario. However, I have seen a number of cases recently charged as murder when there is no alcohol involved and the person must basically defend themselves for their literal life. If the jury is angered enough by the defendant’s actions that caused the death of a poor innocent person, then they can send a message to the defendant with a guilty verdict for murder.
The types of conduct that warrants a murder charge versus a vehicular manslaughter charge, even where no alcohol or drugs are in the person’s system, relates to whether the driver knew or reasonably should have known that their actions may cause a death. The more likely a reasonable person could forsee that their actions could cause a death, the more likely it is the prosecutors will file murder instead of vehicular manslaughter charges.
When a death occurs due to drunk driving, reckless driving, speeding, gross negligence or a hit and run you may be charged with the crime of vehicular manslaughter.
The crime may be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged with a misdemeanor then you will be looking at up to 1 year in jail and if it is charged as a felony you could be facing an even longer term of up to ten years in a state prison. Additionally, you will also face large fines, probation, driver’s license suspension, driving school and community service.
In some cases a vehicular manslaughter charge may be elevated to a murder charge and as criminal defense lawyers we do everything we can to prevent that from ever happening.
At the Hedding Law Firm, our Van Nuys Criminal Attorneys have defended many clients involved in vehicular manslaughter charges and we have achieved excellent results. Our persistence and dedication guarantees competent and effective representation.
We strongly believe that you are innocent until proven guilty, and we will make every attempt to protect your freedom and your legal rights.
In some situations, we may even be able to have your charges lowered or dismissed entirely.
Does your vehicular manslaughter charge involve alcohol? No need to worry; we are known as the DUI Kings of Los Angeles.
Do not waste any time and get in touch with the Hedding Law Firm.