In California, driving under the influence of alcohol or another controlled substance is a serious crime. However, when the death of another person occurs in connection with DUI, whether that individual is a pedestrian, driver, or passenger, the person charged may face additional serious consequences under California Penal Code section 191.5. Under this section of California law, there are two types of DUI manslaughter charges you may face if a death results in some measure from your actions.
Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can be charged with the following degrees of negligence, depending on the specifics of the case:
- Ordinary negligence – PC 191.5(b), or
- Gross negligence – PC 191.5 (a)
Serious consequences can result from receiving a DUI manslaughter charge. If you are currently facing an intoxicated manslaughter charge, you need the help of an intelligent and skilled Fresno DUI attorney to fight on your behalf. Attorney Michael McKneely has many years of courtroom experience working both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He and his team can prepare your case effectively to fight for your rights and freedoms.
Call Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today at (559) 443-7442 to request a free case evaluation.
DUI Manslaughter Defined
Under California law, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence includes a number of elements that comprise the crime. These are:
- You operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance (drugs)
- During the operation of the motor vehicle, and while intoxicated, you committed an additional misdemeanor, infraction, or a lawful act that could result in death
- You committed the said infraction, misdemeanor, or other lawful act with ordinary negligence, and your negligent conduct resulted in another person’s death
The same elements of the crime exist as for ordinary negligence, except that the infraction, misdemeanor, or other act was committed with gross negligence.
Gross negligence intoxicated manslaughter occurs when:
- An individual acts with the type of recklessness that creates a high risk of significant bodily injury or death to another, and
- A reasonable individual would have known that acting in that manner would bring about such a risk
In order for your action to be categorized as gross negligence, you must exhibit more than an ordinary level of error or carelessness in judgment. Gross negligence involves you acting in a distinctly different manner than how a normally careful person would act under the same circumstance. As well, the act must exhibit a particular disregard for the safety of human life.
Ordinary Negligence Penalties
Under the California Penal Code, ordinary negligence vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is designated as a “wobbler” offense. This means it may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on certain factors, including your past criminal history and the particular circumstances of the offense.
- Summary probation
- Maximum one year in county jail
- Maximum base fine of $1,000
- Formal probation
- Up to four years in prison
- Maximum base fine of $10,000
Loss of Driver’s License
You will also lose your driving privileges if convicted of intoxicated manslaughter under Penal Code section 191.5(b). If you are convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor the DMV will revoke your license under Vehicle Code section 13351(a)(1).
Additional charges may be filed against you for driving on a suspended or revoked license if you drive a vehicle during the period of your revocation.
Gross Negligence Penalties
Penal Code section 191.5(a) gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a California felony, and carries the following penalties:
- Formal probation or
- Four, six, or ten year prison sentence, and
- Maximum base fine of $10,000
However, if you have certain previous convictions involving vehicular manslaughter, DUI or DUI causing injury, you may be sentenced to as much as 15 years in prison.
Loss of Driver’s License
Upon receiving a conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the Department of Motor Vehicles in California will revoke your driver’s license for a minimum period of three years.
If you happen to drive during the period of your license revocation, you will face additional charges for driving on a suspended license.
It is a very serious situation when a person loses their life in a motor vehicle accident. Under the law, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For this reason, it’s important to have the services of a highly competent and experienced Fresno criminal defense attorney on your side from start to finish.
With careful consideration of the facts of your case, your attorney may implement one or more of the following defenses on your behalf in regards to your vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge:
You Were Not Intoxicated
Your attorney may use standard California DUI defenses to challenge the allegation that you were intoxicated at the time of the accident. Some of the elements that may be challenged by your attorney include:
- The validity of your breathalyzer or blood tests results
- The procedures used to obtain those test results
- Any evidence that it is used to infer you were under the influence – for instance, you may have just been ill, fatigues, or in shock
- The police procedures used during your arrest and the investigation
You Did Not Act With Negligence
Many times, drivers are required to make very quick decisions in order to avoid accidents. Even if a decision made under such circumstances turns out to be a wrong one, it can be hard to challenge the judgment of the driver and determine that the action taken was done negligently. Your attorney may be able to argue that your driving and decision-making were those of reasonably careful person in the same situation.
Your Negligence Was Not the Cause of The Victim’s Death
Even if you did act with negligence during the course of an automobile accident, the prosecution may not be able to prove that your negligence specifically resulted in the death of the victim. It may be that the victim, a third-party, or some other factor in the situation caused the death. If this is the case, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to challenge the prosecution’s account of what occurred.
In the Face of a Sudden Emergency You Acted Reasonably
California law only requires a defendant in a vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated case to have acted in an emergency situation with the same level of judgment and care that an ordinary person would demonstrate under the same circumstances. If you acted in that manner, you cannot be legally found guilty of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Contact an Experienced Fresno Intoxicated Manslaughter Attorney
At Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer, we have the resources and experience to carefully review the facts of your case and build an intelligent defense on your behalf. You deserve to give yourself the best criminal defense in Fresno that you can. Attorney Michael McKneely has over 15 years of experience handling cases on both the prosecution and defense sides of the courtroom. He and his team are able to defend your rights and fight for the best possible outcome on your behalf.