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Vehicular Manslaughter

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Vehicular manslaughter is prosecuted very severely in California, particularly if it involves driving while under the influence.

In the last several years, with the advent of laws prohibiting cellphone usage and text messaging while driving, law enforcement often seeks to make an example of people who engaged in negligent behavior (including talking on your phone, texting, DUI, etc.) and who ultimately killed somebody as a result. This means potentially tougher jail or prison sentences.

Vehicular manslaughter is very serious and is viewed scornfully by courts and prosecutors.

If you have been charged with this crime, you require the services of a lawyer experienced and knowledgeable in defending vehicular manslaughter charges. Our office has more than 60 combined years of experience representing persons accused of this crime.

How can your lawyers defend me against the charge of vehicular manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter may be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. If it is charged as a felony, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to charge it as a misdemeanor instead or motion the court to reduce it to a misdemeanor. We will thoroughly review the evidence against you — including police reports, witness statements, photographs, etc. We will verify whether you were actually driving negligently, such as committing a traffic violation or engaging in a distracting activity. We sometimes employ the services of an accident reconstructionist to determine the cause of the collision, which may lead to your exoneration. Even if you were driving negligently, the prosecutor must prove that your negligence was the actual cause of the accident. We may be able to argue that the deceased party committed a negligent act that caused the accident.

I was intoxicated at the time that the prosecutors accused me of having committed this crime. What does the prosecutor have to show to prove my guilt?

First of all, to convict you of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Cal. Pen. Code §191.5 (b)), the prosecutor must prove that you:

  1. Were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or that your driving under the influence caused injury to another
  2. That you negligently committed an additional act (not amounting to a felony)
  3. That negligent act caused a person’s death

I was NOT intoxicated at the time of the collision that caused someone’s death. What does the prosecutor have to show to prove my guilt?

If you are being charged under Penal Code 192(c), that is, vehicular manslaughter not involving alcohol or drugs, the prosecutor must show as follows:

  1. That you drove in an unlawful way
  2. That you drove in a lawful but, still, dangerous fashion
  3. You caused the accident as part of an insurance fraud scheme or some other financial gain

What is meant by driving in an unlawful way?

If you caused a collision that resulted in death and you had been speeding, speaking on a hand-held device, driving recklessly, texting, driving through a stop sign without stopping, or otherwise committing some traffic violation or infraction, you may be charged under California Penal Code 192(c).

What is meant by driving in a lawful but dangerous fashion?

One example would be making a right at a red light (which is legal), but without paying mind to persons walking through the crosswalk and proceeding without regard to walking pedestrians.

What can your attorneys do to get me the best possible result?

We will thoroughly review the evidence against you — including police reports, witness statements, photographs, etc. Based on the facts of your case, our team may be able to argue the veracity and the accuracy of the testing and procedures that led to a determination of your intoxication.

Also, we may be able to argue that even if you were under the influence, you did not commit a negligent act or actually cause the accident that killed the victim. If the victim was driving in a negligent manner and his or her negligence was the actual cause of the accident, you may not be liable for his or her death. In so doing, we may be successful in having your charges reduced to simple DUI as opposed to vehicular manslaughter.

If you are being charged with vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, our Torrance and South Bay criminal lawyers can argue that you were actually not under the influence of an intoxicant and would demand to see proof that you were. We can contest the evidence based on defenses related to fighting DUI charges, such as the rising blood alcohol defense or the defense that proves you had some metabolic disorder that caused your blood alcohol to artificially spike. Also, certain visual signs of accident trauma can mimic the side effects of intoxication, such as a red, flushed face; imbalance while walking; bloodshot eyes; slurred speech; nystagmus; and other symptoms, thereby undermining the prosecutor’s charge that you were intoxicated and, therefore, caused a collision that resulted in someone’s death.

If you are being accused of vehicular manslaughter without the alcohol or drug intoxication enhancement, our South Bay vehicular manslaughter defense lawyer can argue that you drove lawfully and the collision was merely an accident to which the deceased or the driver of the vehicle in which the deceased was found was not driving lawfully. We can argue that you exercised due diligence and the collision happened through no lack of your own attention to the wheel, or that you were not texting or engaged in some other activity that could have distracted you from driving responsibly.

Also, if you are charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, we can motion the court to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor under section 17(b) of the California Penal Code.

There are a host of issues we can evaluate based on our analysis of the police reports, witness statements and other evidence on file. Based on our findings, we may be able to successfully thwart a criminal prosecution in court or otherwise weaken the case against you.

Contact Ernenwein & Mathes, LLP, If You Have Been Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter

We are experienced and aggressive Torrance criminal defense lawyers and will use any and all available defenses to protect you against a conviction. We have over 60 combined years of experience defending persons accused of vehicular manslaughter and other crimes.

Robert Ernenwein is a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, so we know how the prosecution operates. He is certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization, has been selected for inclusion in California Super Lawyers for several years and has appeared as a legal analyst on multiple cable news programs, including Fox News.

If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter, call us at 424-552-3901 or email us immediately for your free consultation.