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Types of Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

California penalizes vehicular manslaughter on a few different levels. To better understand what you might be up against if you’re facing a vehicular manslaughter charge, it will be important to know what different types of vehicular homicide California recognizes. Keep reading today’s blog to learn about vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter for financial gain.

Types of Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

Vehicular Manslaughter with Gross Negligence

For an individual to be guilty of gross-negligence vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements of the alleged crime:

  1. While driving a vehicle, you committed a misdemeanor or an infraction, or else committed a lawful act in a manner that might cause death
  2. The act you committed was dangerous to human life under the circumstances
  3. You committed that act with gross negligence
  4. Your act caused the death of another person

Gross negligence is more than ordinary carelessness, inattentiveness, or error in judgment. Gross negligence occurs when:

  1. A person acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury
  2. A reasonable person would have known that such an act would create that risk

Note that it is only gross negligence if the person acts so differently from how an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that their conduct indicates a real disregard for human life or the consequences of their actions.

In order to be convicted of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in California, your grossly negligent actions must actually cause another person’s death, such that the death must be the direct, natural, and probable consequence of your act.

Note that for PC vehicular manslaughter charges to hold, the illegal act you allegedly committed should not have been a felony. For instance, if you killed someone with a car while committing a felony, the prosecutor is likely to charge you instead with California murder under the felony-murder rule instead of vehicular manslaughter.

If the prosecutor cannot show that you acted with gross negligence, then you may only be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter

California law establishes the crime of misdemeanor (or ordinary) vehicular manslaughter, composed of the following elements:

  1. While driving a vehicle, you committed a misdemeanor or an infraction, or else committed a lawful act in an unlawful manner
  2. The act you committed was dangerous to human life under the circumstances
  3. You committed that act with ordinary negligence
  4. Your actions caused the death of another person

Note that ordinary negligence means that you failed to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to someone else, a step beyond gross negligence. You behave with ordinary negligence if you either:

  1. Do something a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation
  2. Fail to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation

Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain

Another special form of vehicular manslaughter outlined under California law is vehicular manslaughter for financial gain. Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain occurs if:

  1. While driving a vehicle, you knowingly cause or participate in a collision
  2. You do so with the knowledge that the purpose of the collision is to make a false insurance claim for financial gain
  3. You do so with the intent to defraud the insurance company or another party
  4. The collision causes a death

In other words, it is considered vehicular manslaughter for financial gain if you accidentally kill someone while deliberately wrecking a car in order to commit any form of insurance fraud.

Speak with an Experienced Attorney Today

If you are facing vehicular manslaughter charges, speak with an experienced attorney about your case immediately. The penalties will depend heavily upon whether you’ve been charged with grossly negligent vehicular manslaughter, misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, or vehicular manslaughter for financial gain. The legal team at Hutton & Khalaf can evaluate the facts of your case and build a defense to reduce your charges, whether to a misdemeanor level or to alternative sentencing.

Contact Hutton & Khalaftoday to discuss your case with our attorneys.

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