Driving under the influence charges should always be taken seriously, but when you have been accused of killing someone as a result of driving while drunk or high, you will face felony charges punishable by the most lengthy DUI penalties possible. This is why you should never fight gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charges without the help of a top DUI lawyer.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated: PC 191.5 (a)
In California, in order to be convicted of this charge, the prosecution must prove three things. They must show that you:
- Were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- You violated a traffic law or acted in a grossly negligent manner
- Your gross negligence resulted in the death of another person
All three of these factors must be proven in order for you to be convicted of a DUI-related vehicular manslaughter charge.
This is important because just being involved in a deadly accident while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not automatically mean that you are guilty of vehicular manslaughter. When an officer arrives on the scene of an accident and you are intoxicated, it is always advisable to remain silent and only provide information regarding your identity and be willing to offer proof of insurance and car registration.
Fighting DUI Manslaughter Charges
The good news is that because the prosecution must prove all three of these factors, there are many good defenses to this crime. Firstly, you can challenge the evidence that you were driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol the same way you can fight any other DUI charge. This can involve questioning officer testimony as well as chemical tests such as the blood or breathalyzer. Even if you successfully fight the accusations that you were intoxicated though, it is important to recognize that you can still face vehicular manslaughter charges even if you were not intoxicated, although the sentence for this crime is not as severe as that of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Next, if you did not violate a traffic law or act in a negligent manner, you are not guilty of this crime. So if there is no evidence you drove in an unlawful manner, then your lawyer may be able to challenge the idea that you drove in a grossly negligent manner. When it comes to gross negligence, this doesn’t mean you were driving poorly, it means you actually drove in a reckless manner that would easily cause a substantial risk of great bodily injury or death to yourself or someone else.
Finally, the prosecution must also prove that the person died did so because of your actions. While people tend to assume deaths in car accidents are a result of accident, that’s not always the case, nor is it the fault of the driver responsible for the accident. For example, if someone in the backseat of a vehicle was dying of a heroin overdose the same time you got in an accident with the vehicle, you would not be responsible for this death. In a less obvious case, if a person was recklessly hanging out of the window of the other vehicle without a seat belt on when you hit their vehicle at a slow speed, your attorney may be able to argue that this death was not your fault because if she was properly restrained in her seat she would have only suffered minor injuries.
In some cases, the best course of action may not be to fight the charges all together, but to instead have your attorney negotiate a plea bargain that will help you minimize the charges and sentence you may face.
Potential Penalties for DUI-Related Vehicular Homicide
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is always a felony charge. As such, it carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in state prison for each person who lost their life in the accident. You can also face an additional 3 years of prison time if any other victims of the accident survived, but suffered great bodily injury.
To make things worse, if you have a prior DUI on your record, you could even face second degree murder charges. In fact, in most cases where the person has prior DUI on their record, the prosecutor will seek a life sentence for the charge.
As a manslaughter charge, this crime is also considered a serious violent felony and will count as a strike under the California’s Three Strikes Law.
If you have been accused of vehicular manslaughter related to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, please call a lawyer as soon as possible. Peter M. Liss has over 35 years experience and accepts all major credit cards. You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling (760) 643-4050.
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