VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER DEFENSE ORANGE COUNTY CA

Any time a third party is harmed as a result of someone driving under the influence (DUI), the consequences can be harsh, but when a drunk driver commits another illegal act with negligence – or gross negligence – and this conduct results in the death of another person, the crime of vehicular manslaughter may be charged. Fortunately, there are a number of legal defenses an experienced DUI defense attorney can present on your behalf to reduce your chances of a vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated conviction. For more information about vehicular manslaughter charges in Orange County, or to hire a DUI defense attorney to represent you in your vehicular manslaughter case, contact Seyb Law Group today. Our criminal defense law firm is known for its passionate and aggressive legal representation and we will work tirelessly to help you get your vehicular manslaughter charges reduced to a lesser offense or possibly even dismissed altogether.

Orange County Vehicular Manslaughter Defense Attorney

Defending yourself against vehicular manslaughter charges in Orange County is no small feat. DUI with injury crimes are punished harshly in Orange County, and any time another person is killed as a result of a DUI accident, the stakes are significantly higher, and it becomes that much more difficult for you to prove your innocence. However, it is important to remember, no matter how serious the crime you are facing, you have rights, and a skilled and aggressive Orange County DUI defense attorney can help you protect those rights. At Seyb Law Group, our attorneys have more than 60 years of combined criminal defense experience and we will use every resource at our disposal to help you get the best possible outcome in your Orange County vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated case. Contact Seyb Law Group today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter is a crime occurring when another person other than the driver is killed in an accident as a result of the driver’s criminally negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Any time a third party is killed in Orange County because you drove under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and either committed another vehicle code violation or otherwise drove in a negligent manner, you can be charged with Penal Code § 191.5(a) PC – gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or Penal Code § 191.5(b) PC – vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter Penal Code § 191.5(a) PC

In Orange County, the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated occurs when a defendant commits both a DUI offense and a grossly negligent act, and as a result, another person is killed. California Penal Code § 191.5(a) PC reads:

“Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is 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.”

Under Penal Code § 191.5(a) PC, in order for gross vehicular manslaughter charges to be brought, the “grossly negligent act” must be another act separate from the defendant’s act of drunk driving, and must either be an Orange County misdemeanor, an infraction, or an otherwise lawful act that could result in death. Some examples of situations that could result in gross vehicular manslaughter charges include the following:

  • While driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, the legal limit for alcohol consumption in Orange County (thereby committing the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol – DUI) you drive up onto the sidewalk to avoid traffic and hit and kill a pedestrian.
  • After taking drugs, you get behind the wheel of your car (thereby committing the crime of driving under the influence of drugs – DUI drugs) and drive at excessive speeds and run red lights. You eventually hit another car and kill the driver.

Vehicular Manslaughter Penal Code § 191.5(b) PC

The crime of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is identical to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, except that for charges to be brought under Penal Code § 191.5(b) PC, the defendant only needs to have acted with ordinary negligence, not gross negligence. California Penal Code § 191.5(b) PC reads:

“Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is 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.”

Under Orange County law, “ordinary negligence” is when a person fails to act in the same way a reasonably careful person would under similar circumstances, to avoid harm to someone else. Some examples of situations that could result in vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charges include the following:

  • While driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher (thereby committing the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol – DUI) you use your cell phone to call a friend without using a hands-free device. While you are on the phone call, you strike a pedestrian who is jaywalking and kill him.
  • After taking drugs, you get behind the wheel of your car (thereby committing the crime of driving under the influence of drugs – DUI drugs) and drive 10 miles over the speed limit on a major highway. You end up rear-ending a vehicle that comes to a sudden stop in front of you and the driver of the vehicle has a heart attack and dies.

Second-Degree Murder Penal Code § 187 PC

Driving while intoxicated and with negligence and thereby causing the death of another person typically results in vehicular manslaughter charges in Orange County. However, if the prosecution believes that you acted with implied malice or a conscious disregard for life while driving under the influence and causing the death of another person, you may be charged with second-degree murder, otherwise known as a “Watson Murder,” under Penal Code § 187 PC. A Watson Murder charge may occur when a person with a prior Orange County DUI conviction kills someone while driving under the influence. Alternatively, if your Orange County DUI offense caused a third party to suffer only an injury, regardless of how serious that injury may be, you could face less severe penalties under California Vehicle Code § 23513 VC, known as DUI with injury.

Penalties for a Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated Conviction

Although vehicular manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter are similar in definition, the crimes carry very different penalties upon conviction. For example, the crime of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated PC § 191.5(a) is an Orange County felony carrying a state prison sentence of four, six or ten years and a fine of up to $10,000, plus felony probation and a suspension of your driving privileges for at least three years. However, if you have a prior conviction for any Orange County DUI crime, like vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI with injury or simple DUI, you could face substantially more severe penalties for a subsequent gross vehicular manslaughter conviction, possibly including a state prison sentence of 15 years to life.

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated PC § 191.5(b), on the other hand, is a wobbler offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on certain factors, including the specifics of your case and your criminal history. The difference in penalties between a misdemeanor and felony vehicular manslaughter conviction is significant. For instance, the maximum sentence for misdemeanor PC § 191.5(b) is one year in county jail, while the maximum felony sentence is four years in state prison. If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, you will also have your driver’s license suspended and could face additional legal penalties. If you are convicted of the crime of second-degree murder while intoxicated, a Watson Murder, you could be sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.

Orange County Vehicular Manslaughter Defense

The consequences of a vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated conviction can be severe and long-lasting, and building a strong legal defense in your case is critical to avoiding a significant prison sentence and other devastating penalties. This is where an experienced DUI defense attorney comes in. Criminal defense attorneys with experience defending PC § 191.5(a) and PC § 191.5(b) cases have a clear understanding of the prosecution’s burden of proof and how to effectively challenge the evidence against you. Consider the following:

In order to warrant a conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under PC § 191.5(a), the prosecution must prove each of the following elements of the crime:

  • You drove a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • While doing so, you committed a separate misdemeanor, infraction or otherwise lawful act that could result in death;
  • You committed that act with gross negligence; and
  • Your grossly negligent conduct caused the death of another person.

In order to warrant a conviction for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under PC § 191.5(b), the prosecution must prove each of the following elements of the crime:

  • You drove a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • While doing so, you committed a separate misdemeanor, infraction or otherwise lawful act that could result in death;
  • You committed that act with ordinary negligence; and
  • Your negligent conduct caused the death of another person.

Best Defense Strategies in Orange County Vehicular Manslaughter Cases

Proving each of the elements mentioned above is the key to the prosecution’s case against you and to successfully disprove one or more of these elements is to unravel the prosecution’s case. For instance, it is difficult for prosecutors to prove the element of gross negligence and this often results in charges being reduced from PC § 191.5(a) to PC § 191.5(b), which carries a significantly lighter sentence. This is a common strategy when the prosecution’s evidence for gross negligence is weak. An experienced DUI defense attorney can help you fight Orange County vehicular manslaughter charges by arguing one or more of the following points:

  • You were not intoxicated at the time of the accident
  • You did not act with negligence or gross negligence
  • Your negligence or gross negligence did not cause the victim’s death
  • You had a sudden emergency and acted as a reasonably careful person would under the circumstances

Contact Our Vehicular Manslaughter Defense Attorneys Today

It is important to keep in mind that the prosecution must prove each element of the crime to get an Orange County vehicular manslaughter conviction in your case. In other words, even if the prosecutor can prove that you were intoxicated at the time of the accident, that does not automatically mean the accident was your fault, nor does it mean you are guilty of the crime of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. It must also be shown that you committed a separate misdemeanor, infraction or otherwise lawful act that could result in death, that you committed the act with ordinary or gross negligence, and that your negligence is what caused the death of the other person. If you or a loved one is facing Orange County vehicular manslaughter charges, do not hesitate to protect your legal rights. Consult our knowledgeable Orange County DUI defense lawyers at Seyb Law Group today.

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