Under California state law, Penal Code 192(c), if the driver of a vehicle becomes involved in an accident with another car, pedestrian, or bicyclist, and if it can be shown that the driver was criminally negligent, then they would be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
For example, if a death occurred as the result of a driver’s gross negligence, disregard for human life, or decision to drive recklessly, then a vehicular manslaughter charge would be brought.
Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence
The nature of the exact charge will depend on the circumstances of the case. For example, if someone was just acting negligently by running through a red light, speeding, or making an illegal turn and they end up killing someone, they would likely be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
If, on the other hand, someone is operating their vehicle in a grossly negligent manner and someone ends up dying because of that, then they are going to be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter. There is a huge difference between those charges because the punishments are much greater for felony vehicular manslaughter.
A lot of these determinations are difficult because someone has died and causation is always an issue. For example, if someone hit another person in oncoming traffic, but the person who was killed was doing something negligent such as not paying attention to the road, then why should the surviving party be held responsible?
The issue of causation comes up frequently in vehicular manslaughter cases, and this is why it is important to have a defense attorney who has experience handling these cases in the San Fernando Valley, and across San Fernando or Van Nuys, CAy, who knows the prosecutors, and who knows how to achieve the best outcome.
Type Of Driving for Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
The type of driving that typically results in vehicular manslaughter charges in San Fernando Valley is characterized as grossly negligent. Of course, trying to define gross negligence is sometimes a nebulous and difficult process.
Oftentimes, a jury must be empaneled in order to decide whether or not a particular act should be defined as grossly negligent. The jurors would listen to the evidence on both sides, determine what exactly gross negligence is, and decide whether to charge the defendant with vehicular manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, ordinary negligence, or nothing at all.
The bottom line is this: if a person is racing through the San Fernando Valley and someone dies as a result of that, they are going to be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Driving recklessly or behaving in a way that surpasses a normal level of negligence will also result in a vehicular manslaughter charge.
It is understood that people make mistakes while driving and that accidents occur, but when a person decides to drive with reckless abandon and disregard for other people on the road, they are going to be held responsible if a death occurs.
Other Driver Sharing Some Responsibility
In a typical civil case where there is contributory negligence, meaning that one party shares some responsibility, a percentage of the fault will be apportioned to each party. For example, one party may be apportioned 70 percent of the fault, while the other party is apportioned 30 percent.
In criminal cases, determining who was at fault becomes a causation issue, meaning it must be determined who caused the accident and who caused a person to lose their life.
In the San Fernando Valley, sometimes an act of vehicular manslaughter will have multiple causes. When there are multiple causes, it will have to be determined which was a substantial factor in the death of the party, and whoever caused a substantial factor is going to be held responsible.
So, if the defendant was a substantial factor in the case, then he or she is going to be held responsible for the death and could be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
As far as determining who is a substantial factor, there is case law on that and jury instructions that are given, but ultimately it will have to be asked whether, if not for someone’s action, the person’s death could have been avoided.
This is something that requires a seasoned attorney who has handled vehicular manslaughter cases before and who knows what they are doing.
For more information on Vehicular Manslaughter In California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0940 today.