If you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide, it means that, as the person charged with the crime, you have been deemed responsible for someone’s death. While you certainly did not intend for things to turn out this way—you were behaving foolishly, and things got out of control—someone is dead, and the state is devoted to making you pay.
What is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Negligence is the underlying principle of vehicular manslaughter charges. It involves drivers who do dumb things behind the wheel when they should know better. Maybe a driver drove too fast through a neighborhood or on a freeway. Perhaps someone juiced the gas in order to get through an intersection even though the light had turned red. Or possibly a driver took just a few seconds to type out a text message while behind the wheel. Drivers who take these kinds of chances can be dangerous on the road, and when their behavior results in a fatality, criminal charges are likely to follow. A misdemeanor conviction could mean up to 12 months behind bars. However, vehicular manslaughter could be charged as a felony if gross negligence is found to have occurred. In that case, the penalties are much stiffer—up to six years in state prison. Your driver’s license could also be revoked for three years.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
When someone is under the influence of alcohol exceeding state limits of 0.08% (or 0.05% for individuals under age 21) or is under the influence of mind-altering drugs, and that person winds up in an accident that kills someone, they could wind up facing misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the level of negligence associated with the accident. Under the best of circumstances, a guilty verdict could result in anywhere from a year to three years in the county jail. Felony charges could land a suspect in prison for as long as 10 years.
California law gets even more punitive when repeating DUI offenders are involved in fatal accidents or when previous DUI offenders have been advised as to the dangers of driving while drunk (the Watson Advisement). The law is based on a case involving a drunk driver–Watson– who killed two people as a repeat DUI offender. It has set a precedent in California that means individuals in circumstances similar to Watson’s can be charged with second-degree murder, which could put offenders in prison for 25 years to life.
What a Conviction Could Mean for You
How does life change for someone charged with these kinds of crimes? Despite feeling overwhelming angst at having had a part in someone’s death, the courts will further punish offenders found guilty. Imprisonment for any length of time could change life forever, impacting family relationships, current and future employment, and quality of life for you and your family. Without question, a strong defense is essential going forward. Continue reading