While celebrating a special occasion with your family at a restaurant, you eat, celebrate and drink wine. You make an error in judgment and decide you’re OK to drive. Unfortunately, you’re involved in a fatal car crash on the way home.

This nightmare scenario happens every day throughout California. If you’re charged with vehicle manslaughter under Penal Code Section 192(c), Section 191.5(a) or Section 191.5(b) because you’re involved in an accident in San Diego or nearby, your entire life can change in the blink of an eye. A conviction for vehicular manslaughter can result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction, incarceration, substantial fines, loss of driving privileges, damage to your reputation and career opportunities, negative immigration effects and more.

About Your Charges

A vehicular homicide manslaughter charge means that you’re accused of causing the death of another because of negligent driving, which may include such things as speeding, using a cell phone while driving, failing to obey a traffic control device, or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Because these offenses involve taking another person’s life, San Diego prosecutors are extremely zealous in prosecuting them to promote public safety.

While it’s easy to feel guilt or remorse if you’re involved in a serious auto accident where someone is dies, it’s essential not to admit fault or make other incriminating statements like “I am so sorry” or “It is entirely my fault.” These types of damning statements may be used later by prosecutors to show guilt. If you were involved in a fatal car accident to which your negligence may have contributed, never speak with the police or prosecutor or give a statement of any kind until you speak with a knowledgeable defense attorney.

Consequences of Conviction

If you’re charged with vehicular manslaughter based on negligent driving under Penal Code Section 192(c), which essentially means the failure to take reasonable care to prevent injury to another, the prosecutor may charge you with either a misdemeanor or felony based on the specific facts and circumstances of your case as well as your criminal history.

If you’re convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, you may be sentenced to up to 1 year in county jail plus other penalties. A felony conviction for vehicular manslaughter may result in a term in county jail or state prison ranging from 2 to 10 years.

Vehicular manslaughter while under the influence under Penal Code Section 191.5(b) may also be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are convicted of the misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of $1,000 plus other court-imposed fees. If you’re convicted of the felony, you may face a maximum term of 4 years in state prison and a similar fine.

There is yet another version of vehicular manslaughter called gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under Penal Code Section 191.5(a). Drivers are charged with this offense if they are involved in a fatal DUI accident where they cause the death of another while driving in such a reckless fashion that it shows a conscious disregard for human life.

For example, if you were driving drunk down a narrow mountain road, speeding, passing vehicles unsafely, and weaving in and out of traffic, and you kill someone, this might support such a charge. Conviction may result in a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in state prison even on a first offense.

Defense Strategies

Under California law, vehicular manslaughter either involves some form of negligent driving or driving while under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. The prosecutor must establish not only that you were engaged in unlawful or unsafe driving, but also that you engaged in an unlawful or unsafe driving practices that caused the fatal accident. This does not necessarily mean you need to be the sole cause of the accident, but you have to be a substantial cause of the accident that resulted in the death of another driver, passenger or pedestrian.

When defending clients against these charges, I employ the same strategies I developed as a successful prosecutor to fight for your freedom and you future. I’ve successfully defended people just like you against these serious charges in San Diego, Imperial and surrounding counties.

I diligently seek dismissal of these serious charges or an acquittal after trial for my clients. My successful defense strategies include challenging evidence that you were intoxicated or impaired by drugs or alcohol, including field sobriety testing and blood alcohol test results, as well as offering an alternate explanation for the cause of the fatal accident.  I regularly work with accident reconstruction experts and toxicologists to pursuasively demonstrate these facts at trial.

Being convicted of causing a fatal car accident has a life-changing impact, not to mention the possibility of a long period of incarceration. If you’re charged with vehicular manslaughter either because of unsafe or illegal driving practices or driving while driving under the influence I invite you to schedule a free case evaluation with me to discuss your options.