There are a variety of claims behind a vehicular manslaughter charge, all of which concern a driver’s reasonable judgment on the road. In today’s blog, we discuss the different driving behaviors tied to vehicular manslaughter charges, from negligence to reckless driving to DUI. Keep reading to learn more about the most common claims behind a vehicular manslaughter lawsuit.
A driver can be charged with vehicular homicide if they caused a fatal accident while driving a vehicle negligently. Negligence also called “simple negligence” or “ordinary negligence” is generally defined as a failure to exercise a degree of care that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances.
The type of negligent conduct can include careless or distracted driving that may not be unlawful but unfortunately, results in another’s a fatality. For example, a driver who fails to wear glasses or briefly takes their eyes off the road to adjust the radio could face vehicular homicide charges if their momentary inattention causes a fatal accident.
Grossly Negligent Driving
Gross negligence, also called “criminal negligence” or “culpable negligence,” goes one step further and involves more egregious conduct than ordinary negligence. For instance, a driver is grossly negligent when they fail to perceive a risk that will result from engaging in certain conduct. The nature and degree of the risk in such a case must be so substantial that the driver’s failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable driver would observe in the same situation.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is another common behavior tied to a vehicular homicide charge. DUI is a crime on its own, but it can escalate to vehicular homicide if the intoxication is the reason for the driver’s negligent behavior that killed another person. Note that in California, the prosecution must prove both that the driver was intoxicated and that while intoxicated they committed gross negligence on the road that caused another person’s death.
In many cases, those who have been charged with vehicular manslaughter with intoxication will seek to reduce their charge to a mere DUI if they can prove their actions did not cause the death of the alleged victim.
A person driving recklessly can also be charged with vehicular homicide if their reckless driving is the cause of another person’s death. “Reckless” is generally defined as consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk, such as if the driver was aware that their conduct posed a serious risk but engaged in that conduct anyway. So, as opposed to negligence, the element of knowledge is present in a reckless driving case, as a reckless driver knows their behavior is unreasonable and acts on it anyway.
In California, even minor traffic infractions could be grounds for a vehicular manslaughter charge if they caused another’s death. That is, a motorist also commits misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter when they negligently cause the death of another person while violating a traffic law (e.g. speeding, running a red light, reckless driving). A few common examples of traffic violations that could be involved in a case of vehicular manslaughter are illegal passing or turning, speeding, texting while driving.
Contact Hutton & Khalaf Today!
If you have been accused of committing vehicular manslaughter under any of the above circumstances, contact an attorney immediately. Our team at Hutton & Khalaf can assess the facts of your situation and determine the available avenues of defense, whether it be arguing for reduced penalties to a DUI or fighting a claim of negligence. Whatever your case, it is advisable that you seek legal representation, as you could face severe penalties, the least of which could be the loss of your driving privileges.
Speak with one of our attorneys at Hutton & Khalaf today for more information.