Vehicular manslaughter charges are prosecuted very harshly in the state of California. Convictions can result in fines and years of time behind bars. You may be wondering if you can face these charges if you were charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and causing a serious accident.
The fact of the matter is that you can face two different vehicular manslaughter charges for a DUI-related accident. You could also be charged with DUI murder in this situation. The Simmrin Law Group can help you learn more about all three of these charges and your legal options in this situation.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated in California
Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the least severe charge you could face after a deadly DUI accident. The court system uses Penal Code Section 191.5b to prosecute vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. According to PC 191.5b, you may face this charge if:
- While driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol you
- Committed an unlawful act that might lead to someone’s death and
- This act resulted in the death of someone else
Note that this charge does not apply to drivers who demonstrate gross negligence. In practical terms, this means a driver acts in a way that a reasonable person would find dangerous without consciously and voluntarily disregarding the safety of others.
For example, a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) that exceeds the legal limits who takes a phone-call while driving and accidentally hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk could be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
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Penalties for PC 191.5b Convictions
If you are accused of a PC 191.5b violation, you could face misdemeanor or felony charges. Misdemeanor convictions result in:
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Jail time of up to one year
Felony convictions can lead to:
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Prison time of up to four years
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated in California
Drivers under the influence who act intentionally and knowingly in a way that would endanger other drivers could be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The court uses Penal Code Section 191.5a to prosecute this charge.
As with PC 191.5b charges, in order to be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, you must:
- Operate a vehicle after consuming drugs or alcohol and
- Commit another negligent act
- That leads to the death of another person
Drunk drivers who take an action that would be considered an infraction or a misdemeanor could be charged under PC 191.5a if they act voluntarily and they are conscious of their choices. Deciding to run a red light while under the influence could lead to PC 191.5a charges.
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Penalties for PC 191.5a Convictions
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated will always be prosecuted as a felony in the state of California. A conviction could lead to:
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Prison time of up to ten years
Note that these penalties could increase if you were previously convicted of a DUI, a DUI causing injury, or any other form of vehicular manslaughter.
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DUI Murder (Watson Murder) in California
You could also face charges for DUI murder in California. This charge is considered more serious than vehicular manslaughter. The courts use Penal Code Section 187 to prosecute DUI murder, which is an example of second-degree murder.
DUI murder charges may apply if a driver:
- Intentionally carries out a criminal act (such as driving under the influence)
- While knowing that the act may endanger another person’s life, thereby
- Demonstrating deliberate and conscious disregard for the lives of others
Note that DUI murder charges only apply if a driver:
- Experienced a previous conviction for a DUI AND
- Attended DUI school OR
- Was read a Watson admonition
Drivers are informed that DUIs are dangerous and that they can face murder charges if they are convicted of future DUIs by a Watson admonition.
Penalties for PC 187 Convictions
DUI murder is punished very harshly. A conviction for a PC 187 violation can result in:
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Prison time of 15 years to life
These penalties may grow more severe if multiple people were killed or injured in a DUI accident in Los Angeles.
Get Help Following a DUI Accident in California
You don’t have to try to handle vehicular manslaughter or DUI murder charges on your own in California. You can get professional help addressing these accusations from the Simmrin Law Group. Contact our criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles now by filling out our online contact form or calling (310) 997-4688.
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