Gross Vehicular Manslaughter

Hayward DUI Hit and Run Ends in Fatality (CA Penal Code 191.5)

Hayward police claim that the driver of the vehicle that struck another car early Saturday morning was intoxicated when he caused the collision.  The accident happened near Eden Shores and Hesperian boulevards when a 28-year-old man (name withheld) crashed into another car with 2 passengers when he allegedly failed to stop at a red light.  An 18-year-old teenager was killed as a result of the incident.  The unproven perpetrator left his vehicle and attempted to escape on foot; local law enforcement officials were able to detain him within a few minutes and judged him to be under the influence of alcohol or some other drug.  He was eventually arrested for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence (DUI), and hit and run.

In California, when someone is involved in a traffic incident with fatalities and can be proven to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating their vehicle, this generally falls under the umbrella of ‘vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated’ (CA Penal Code 191.5).  Different from a simple DUI, in this type of case, prosecutors must be able to prove that an individual has not only been driving while under the influence, but has also caused another person’s death due to their own negligence.

According to the law, there are 2 ways in which an individual may be charged under this section: as having acted with ordinary negligence or gross negligence.  In other words, cases like these are California ‘wobblers,’ meaning that it is up to prosecutors to determine how they will treat it.  If you are charged with having acted with ‘ordinary negligence,’ then you may either be facing a misdemeanor or felony charges of ‘ordinary vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.’  This means that you could be looking at anywhere from 1 year in county jail or up to 4 years in state prison, depending on whether the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  However, if you have been charged with having acted with ‘gross negligence,’ penalties rise substantially.  First, acting with ‘gross negligence’ raises the crime to the level of a felony; second, you could spend up to 10 years in state prison.

San Jose Man Arrested for Suspicion of DUI and Vehicular Manslaughter (CA Penal Code 191.5)

A 23-year-old man driving a Lexus SUV was allegedly under the influence of alcohol when he accidentally crashed the vehicle against a median on North Capital Avenue in San Jose.  Reports claim that there were up to 6 people in the car that night, 2 of whom were determined dead at the scene, while 3 more were rushed to a local hospital in stable condition.  After the accident, law enforcement agents searched the vehicle and found some type of alcohol, thus assuming that the driver had been under the influence at the time of the collision.  He was arrested for suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter.

There is a very particular California law that applies when the driver of a vehicle is suspected of being intoxicated when they accidentally cause the death of others in a car crash.  California Penal Code 191.5 (“Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated”) addresses the possibility that an individual who has been drinking, and then causes a fatal accident is guilty of a special kind of negligence.  In cases of these types, prosecutors must determine whether they will claim, in court, that a defendant acted with ordinary negligence or with gross negligence.

If ‘gross negligence’ can be proven, then prosecutors must still decide whether they will treat the crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony (this is what is known as a ‘wobbler’).  If a person is convicted of ordinary vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, they may expect to spend up to 1 year in county jail.  However, a conviction on the basis of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated may lead to up to 4 years in state prison.  In either case, the convicted party will be forced to surrender their driver’s license for a time and may also anticipate official DUI courses mandated by the state.


DUI Driver Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter in Oakland (CA Penal Code 191.5)

A man from Livermore (20), name withheld to protect the privacy of the accused) is currently being held in custody in conjunction with a DUI related crash that ended in the death of a passenger in his vehicle on New Year’s Day.  It seems that the accident occurred in the early morning hours near the MacArthur/High Street on-ramp.  Local law enforcement agents believe that both drugs and alcohol were to blame for the incident.

A California DUI should not be taken lightly.  Penalties, especially for a 2nd and 3rd offense are strict and harsh.  In fact, every DUI in California falls into the legal category of a ‘priorable offense.’  This means that, with each offense within 10 years of time, the punishment increases significantly.  Ostensibly, this is mean to decrease the number of DUIs by increasing the level of punishment.  Conviction for a 1st offense DUI, for example, will likely end in only up to 6 months in county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.  However, a 3rd offense means up to 1 year in county (and 5 years of probation), revocation of your driver’s license for up to 3 years, and attendance at a state-sanctioned DUI school.

Yet, when a person’s death is the result of an accident involving drugs or alcohol, the consequence become even direr (CA Penal Code 191.5).  Although you may not have intended to end another person’s life, the courts will treat your actions as negligence and may be charged with vehicular manslaughter.  This particular law may sometimes be considered a misdemeanor and sometimes a felony (a ‘wobbler’), depending on what prosecutors believe to be the facts of an individual case.  If convicted, you may face 4 years in state prison, along with the aforementioned fines and other penalties.


Woman Charged with Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated in San Mateo Pedestrian Death (CA Penal Code 191.5(a))

Recently, a 21-year-old woman (name withheld to protect the accused’s privacy) has recently been charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and a drug-related DUI after an incident in a San Mateo Walgreen’s parking lot.  Law enforcement officials allege that this young woman was under the influence of marijuana when she accidentally ran into an elderly woman, who was walking through the drive-through.  The woman later expired due to the injuries she sustained at the time of the collision.

The younger woman involved in this occurrence will face what amounts to 2 felony charges if eventually convicted.  In the state of California, the crime of “Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated” (CA Penal Code 191.5(a)) is a serious one indeed.   Any individual who finds himself or herself in a similar situation must remember that there are several different elements that prosecutors must be able to prove in order to get a conviction for a violation of this law.  First, it must be proved that either drugs or alcohol were involved; Second, they must have acted with ‘gross negligence;’ Third, another person must have been killed as a consequence of these actions.

If an individual can be proven to have acted with ‘ordinary negligence,’ then penalty is 1 year in county jail.  However, as in the above circumstance, if the individual in question has been charged with a felony (CA PC 191.5(a)), then they will face up to 10 years in state prison and the suspension of their driver’s license.


Rohnert Park Bakery Driver Convicted of Vehicular Manslaughter (CA Penal Code 192(c)(2))

28-year-old commercial driver and resident of Rohnert Park (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused), accidentally fell asleep at the wheel while driving a bakery truck.  Unfortunately, he caused a head-on collision with 66-year-old victim’s pickup truck.  A Sonoma County Superior Court Judge determined that he was, indeed, at fault, but that he had no malicious intent.  He had been arrested at the scene on 1 count of misdemeanor manslaughter, but it was clear to everyone involved that he was telling the truth when he said he was simply in the process of getting accustomed to his new early morning and late night hours.  He was sentenced to 5 years probation and 500 hours of community service.

According to California law,  in order to be charged with vehicular manslaughter, it must be proven that you were somehow negligent and that your negligence caused someone else’s death (CA Penal Code 192(c)(2)).  He clearly acted with ‘ordinary’ as opposed to ‘gross’ negligence.  The court was lenient with him, as the maximum penalty for such a crime is only 1 year in county jail.  Had this been a case of gross negligence, it could have been prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  If convicted of  felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, you could, however, be looking at a very stiff penalty, 6 years in state prison.


Driver May Face Vehicular Manslaughter Charges for Pedestrian Death in Berkeley (CA Penal Code 192(c))

56-year-old driver (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) insists that he is not responsible for killing a 98-year-old pedestrian.  The pedestrian was killed when the driver’s car crashed into him while he was walking across the crosswalk near Bancroft Way in Berkeley.  After the accident, which threw the pedestrian 40 feet from the car after impact, local law enforcement agents interviewed the driver to try to get some answers.  The facts were a bit confusing.  First, the accident happened around lunchtime (12:20 p.m.) and the driver definitely had food in the car with him, though no one will be able to prove whether this was what distracted him.  Yet, the driver’s response was that his license had expired about 14 years ago and that he was operating the vehicle even though he is legally blind.

Perhaps the first thing that should be discussed in this odd and unfortunate case is the legal definition of ‘blindness’ in the state of California.  At first, one might think that ‘legal blindness’ means that an individual cannot see at all.  This is not the case.  All that ‘legally blind’ means is that a person’s vision in their ‘best’ eye cannot be corrected with either contact lenses, eyeglasses, or other means to better than 20/200.  What this means is that, while a person with naturally good vision or corrected vision may be able to see something from about 200 feet away, a person who is legally blind may only be able to see that same something from 20 feet – and with their ‘best’ eye.  A person may also be considered legally blind if they experience ‘tunnel vision,’ meaning that their peripheral vision is basically non-existent.

If convicted of vehicular manslaughter (CA Penal Code 192(c)), the driver may face anywhere from 1 year in county jail to 6 years in state prison, depending on whether prosecutors decide to prosecute the charge as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  He will have to prove that he was operating the vehicle while displaying ‘ordinary negligence’ as opposed to ‘gross negligence.’


Man Formerly Accused of DUIs Hit By Drunk Driver (CA Penal Code 191.5(b))

By all accounts, 38-year-old (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) was trying to get his life together.  He’d just been released from an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center after a 2013 DUI conviction, his 3rd.  His friends all say that he was doing well, that he’d given up the life that he had before, which included a lot of drinking and driving.  He finally understood the consequences his actions could have, especially on others.  However, and unfortunately, a 19-year-old man did not.  A drunk driver killed him on the 29th of April while he was riding his bicycle in Dana Point, an ironic fate, to say the least. Though it has not been proven that the young man who hit him was, indeed, driving while intoxicated.  What is certain, however, is that he would have been saved if he’d simply begun his prison term, having been sentenced just one day before to 45 days in county jail and 5 years of probation.  Evidently, he was waiting for that term to begin in one month. 

In the state of California, his crimes are far less serious, legally speaking, than the young man’s who killed him.  California Penal Code 191.5(b) (gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated) dictates that this crime is a felony.  If you are convicted of a charge pursuant to this law, you may face up to 10 years in state prison or, if you have a prior similar charge, 15 years-to-life.  You may also face probation, a $10,000 fine, restitution to any living victims who were also involved in the accident, community service, license suspension, and attendance in a DUI school.


Alameda County Sherriff’s Deputy Not Charged Vehicular Manslaughter for Pedestrian Fatality (CA Penal Code 192(c))

In the early morning hours of April 19, 2014, Deputy (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) could be found speeding at Cherry Way and Mission Boulevard in Cherryland.  He insists that he was in the midst of looking for a vehicle associated with an unrelated crime, however, in his haste, he failed to notice two pedestrians who were in his way.  The victims were both from Hayward, one survived with injuries.  Yet, prosecutors refuse to charge the deputy with any wrongdoing in the incident.  Understandably, the families of the victims have filed suit against the county.

Under normal circumstances, vehicular manslaughter is serious business in the state of California (CA Penal Code 192(c)). The driver may face charges if their vehicle causes another person’s death due to driving in an illegal way or driving in a way that could reasonably be considered dangerous. This includes speeding (the deputy admits to this), texting, talking on one’s cell phone, or causing an accident in the middle of a crosswalk (vehicular manslaughter that does not involve either drugs or alcohol).

This particular crime is a California ‘wobbler, ‘ meaning that prosecutors may choose to charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony (depending on the specifics of your case).  The penalties range anywhere from 2 to 10 years in state prison.  Whether the incident with the deputy will spur public outcry remains to be seen.  He is still a deputy in good standing with the department as of now.


Cyclist Killed in Pleasanton – Twitter Feed Used as Evidence (CA Penal Code 192(c))

19-year-old man (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) spends a lot of time devoted to pursuits on social media.  There was one thing, however, that he couldn’t have foreseen and that’s that his Twitter feed would be used as evidence against him in court.  On June 9th of last year, 58-year-old Dublin woman and her husband were struck by his vehicle as they made their way down Foothill road near Golden Eagle Way. She was killed, while her husband sustained other injuries.

The interesting thing about this case, however, is not that he was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter, but that prosecutors attempted to try him for murder.  What made them think that this was a wise idea and that this charge would fly with a county judge?  It was the fact that he had bragged to several that he liked to drive fast and that he had done so in a public arena (Twitter).  As it turns out, he pled no contest to the charges and a judge determined that murder charges were too harsh, reducing them back down to vehicular manslaughter.

In California, the crime of vehicular manslaughter is divided into two separate categories:  one involving an intoxicated driver and those that do not. He will be sentenced according to (CA Penal Code 192(c)) as he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the crash occurred.  This particular crime is considered a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.  If he were convicted of a misdemeanor violation, then he would be looking at a maximum 1-year sentence in county jail.  However, as he has been convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter, it looks as if he may spend 9 years in state prison, only 1 year shy of the maximum 10-year penalty.


Santa Rosa Crash Allegedly Caused by Texting & Driving (CA Vehicle Code 23123.5)

Recently, there has been a lot of debate over the safety of texting while driving.  Most law enforcement officials and legislators cite the dangers of paying too close attention to one’s phone and not the road.  In Santa Rosa, a fatal car crash that occurred on Saturday, March 15th has been deemed just such a case of the threat that texting while driving poses.

30-year-old driver (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) made no secret about the fact that he was texting while driving when the accident occurred.  In fact, this is not the first time that he has been in trouble with the law for traffic safety violations; he has 1 conviction already for texting while driving and another for street racing.  What was different this time is that 53-year-old and her mother-in-law were killed in the crash.  Thus, he was also arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter.

California law rose to meet public concern over texting while driving in January of 2009. (CA Vehicle Code 23123.5) makes it a crime to use one’s cellular phone or other “wireless communication device” to text or otherwise communicate while that person is driving a motorized vehicle. For a first offense, a person could pay a $20 fine; subsequent offenses result in a $50 fine each.  Of course, local law enforcement officials warn that paying a simple fine is very different than the worst result of texting and driving, the death of one’s self and/or others.