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.