19-year-old Sunnyvale resident (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) was driving his 2007 Nissan Maxima down East Bayshore Road at Laura Lane when he accidentally hit and killed a 67-year-old man. He was allegedly operating his vehicle under the influence and did not see the other driver, who was taking a morning walk when he was struck at 6:15 a.m. The crash was enough to send the Nissan flying off onto the side of the road where it came to a stop after hitting a pole and flipping over. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI, vehicular manslaughter, and driving without a license (CA Vehicle Code 12500). He did not flee the scene, but remained with Williams’s body until local law enforcement arrived.
According to California law, vehicular manslaughter that occurs because an individual was either drunk or under the influence of drugs (CA Penal Code 23152(a) and 23152(b)) while driving is considered a case of ‘gross negligence’ (CA Penal Code 191.5(a), “gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated”). In other words, if you have already committed the crime of driving under the influence and then also commit some other kind of minor illegal act, then your negligence is considered to be greater than could normally be expected (‘ordinary negligence’) it increases to ‘gross’ negligence. If someone loses his or her life because of your actions, then your situation becomes serious indeed.
In California, the penalties for violating CA PC 191.5(a) are determined in relation to the specific facts of the case at hand. Technically, this crime is a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors may choose at will whether to treat it as a misdemeanor or as a felony charge. If convicted of a misdemeanor like this, you may face up to 1 year in county jail. However, if you are convicted of a felony of this nature, you can expect to spend anywhere from 16 months to 4 years in a California State prison. In either case, your driver’s license will, at the very least, be suspended.