What to Expect if Involved in a Traffic Accident Causing Death

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingAug 27, 2019

I get these California Penal Code 192b PC involuntary manslaughter cases all the time, and a lot of times, they're filed as criminal cases, so people are asking well if it was just an accident. I didn't do it on purpose; how could they possibly charge me with a crime?  And that relates to several different factors.

First off, the prosecutors and the police will look at what you were doing when this accident occurred that caused a death.  If you're negligent in how you handled things, you have a chance to be charged with PC 192b involuntary manslaughter, which means you did some illegal act, it was negligent, and you caused the death of another person.  That usually falls under the misdemeanor category of involuntary manslaughter.

California Penal Code 192b PC involuntary manslaughter

I had a case recently where a client made a left-hand turn early in the morning and didn't see a motorcycle coming, and the bike hit his car; unfortunately, the motorcycle driver passed away. It took these guys months to evaluate the case. They finally decided right before the statute of limitations ran to file an involuntary manslaughter criminal case against him — sent him into the court, and we had to deal with it.

I ended up getting a traffic reconstruction expert to go over everything — go to the scene and write me a report, and in the news, they said it wasn't my client's fault.  Even though this was a tragedy, my client couldn't see the motorcycle coming. A car parked along the curb blocking my client's view, and it wasn't his fault.  He also determined the motorcyclist was going too fast for the conditions.  So, we ended up getting that case dismissed.

We didn't have to go to a jury trial. Once the prosecutors saw that accident reconstruction report, they realized it wasn't the guy's fault, and their accident reconstruction report was weak and wasn't based on anything. Many of the officer's conclusions to base his opinion that it was my client's fault were simply false or invalid.

So, when it's an accident, you have the best chance of avoiding a criminal conviction.  You just made a mistake; you did something stupid, or maybe it wasn't your fault, and you can make that argument. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will examine this topic further below.

Murder Charges

But when you're driving recklessly and somebody dies, you start to get into an area where the prosecutors can charge vehicular manslaughter.  I've even seen them set murder recently in many cases where people are speeding like 100 miles an hour and going through red lights and killing somebody.

Suppose you're driving with alcohol or any other drug in your system, and you kill somebody. In that case, you can expect to be charged with second-degree murder because that's how the prosecutors throughout the county, specifically in Los Angeles, are charging cases where people are drinking and driving and killing people. Even if you have drugs and you're going, and you end up causing an accident that kills another person, expect to be charged with murder.  That's a severe charge.

Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

The dividing line between being charged with murder and vehicular manslaughter is sometimes very subjective and murky.  One has to do with you being reckless on the road and causing a death.  That's usually going to be a vehicular manslaughter charge.  That's gross negligence, and that's the standard for charging somebody with a felony vehicular manslaughter charge.

On the other hand, if you're acting with wanton disregard for human life — that's the standard to get your cranked up to that murder charge — they can charge you with second-degree murder.  You'd be looking at fifteen to live potentially.

So obviously, you want to be very careful when it comes to driving on the road. Still, suppose you're being charged with second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter. In that case, you're going to want to get an attorney like me who's been doing this for twenty-five years and knows what a case is worth.

He knows what it takes to investigate these types of cases.  Get accident reconstruction reports; use your common sense and fight against the prosecutors. Sometimes, when somebody's charged with vehicular manslaughter, murder, involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutors aren't being reasonable.

They're not looking at both sides of the story.  They're only looking at a one-sided, slanted version by the police. The police didn't thoroughly investigate the case, used weak accident reconstruction experts, and drew conclusions based on incorrect facts.

Retain a Criminal Attorney 

So, you're going to need somebody like me to dig into things, look at them, make the right decisions to end up with the best possible result.  Nobody wants to get railroaded into some vehicular manslaughter or murder charge.  You will want to be able to defend yourself.

Make the right decisions.  Make the right moves because sometimes you are responsible for that death.  The issue is going to be where are you accountable?  What type of charge will you have to swallow, and most importantly, what will your punishment be? These have got to be talked about with a professional — an attorney who's been down this road before, had success and knows what it takes to get you out of the criminal justice system as soon as possible.