Penalties and Sentencing: Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter carries a variety of penalties at the misdemeanor or felony level, depending on your case. To learn more about specific sentencing for vehicular manslaughter cases, keep reading our blog where we will discuss potential jail time, fines, and even defenses against specific elements of your charge that could reduce your penalties.

Misdemeanors and Felonies

In California, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a wobbler offense, which means that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the offense and your criminal history.

Misdemeanor Penalties

If you are charged with gross-negligence vehicular manslaughter as a misdemeanor, you could face the following penalties:

  1. Misdemeanor probation
  2. Up to 1 year in county jail
  3. Up to $1,000 in fines

The same penalties apply to any other misdemeanor or ordinary vehicular manslaughter charge.

Felony Penalties

If you are charged with gross-negligence vehicular manslaughter as a felony, the potential penalties are steeper with:

  1. Felony probation
  2. Imprisonment in California state prison for 2, 4, or 6 years
  3. Up to $10,000 in fines

Additionally, vehicular manslaughter for financial gain/insurance purposes is always a felony under California law punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 4, 6, or 10 years in state prison.

If you are convicted of either vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence or vehicular manslaughter for financial gain, the California DMV will also revoke your driver’s license, and you will not be able to get your license reinstated until at least 3 years after the date of revocation. Note that if you drive during the period when your license is revoked, you will face additional charges for driving on a suspended license.

Defenses Against Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

Potential defenses against a vehicular manslaughter charge are:

  1. You were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  2. Your actions were not negligent
  3. Your actions were not the cause of death
  4. Unlawful police search/stop
  5. You faced a sudden emergency and acted reasonably under the circumstances

Vehicular manslaughter charges tied to intoxication can be reduced to a simple DUI if your attorney can argue that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs while you were driving. Similarly, if you argue that your actions under the circumstances were reasonable, you could show that you therefore did not act negligently.

One of the core elements of a vehicular manslaughter charge is that your behavior on the road caused the death of another. So, even if you were found to have driven negligently and someone ended up dead, there is a chance the prosecution cannot prove that it was your negligence that caused the death. Thus, you cannot be declared guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

Note that California vehicular manslaughter law also provides that if the defendant was facing a sudden and unexpected emergency, they are required to use the same judgment that an ordinarily careful person would use in the same situation. For example, if you swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting a deer or running over road debris, you could argue that your behavior was not negligent but rather reasonable given the conditions.

Accused of Vehicular Manslaughter?

If you have been accused of vehicular manslaughter, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately. As vehicular manslaughter charges are wobbler offenses, an experienced lawyer can argue for a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony charge. Let the team at Hutton & Khalaf defend your case. Vehicular manslaughter cases are tough to handle, and you deserve trusted and knowledgeable attorneys on your side.

Contact Hutton & Khalaftoday to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.