Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated is an extremely serious offense in California.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being:
- Without malice aforethought,
- In the driving of a vehicle,
- Where the driving was in violation of Vehicle Code Sections 23140, 23152, or 23153
- The killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony.
- Without gross negligence
- The proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.
To prove that someone is guilty of the offense of negligent vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements1:
- The defendant drove under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or a drug, or both, while having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher;
- When the defendant is under the age of 21, drove while having a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or higher;
- While driving that vehicle under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and/or a drug, the defendant also committed a misdemeanor or infraction, or otherwise unlawful act that might cause death2;
The defendant’s negligent conduct caused the death of another person4
The difference between this offense and the charge offense of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the degree of negligence required. Gross negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. A person acts with gross negligence when:
- He or she acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and
- A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.
In other words, a person acts with gross negligence when the way he or she acts is so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of that act.
The combination of driving a vehicle while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and/or a drug and violating a traffic law is not enough by itself to establish gross negligence. In evaluating whether someone acted with gross negligence, prosecutors will consider the level of intoxication, if any; the way a defendant drove; and any other relevant aspects of the defendant’s conduct.5
How Can You Fight Negligent Manslaughter While Intoxicated & DUI Charges?
There are several defenses that an attorney can assert to fight a charge of negligent manslaughter while intoxicated. Here are the most common ones:
A person facing a sudden and unexpected emergency situation not caused by that person’s own negligence is required only to use the same care and judgment that an ordinarily careful person would use in the same situation, even if it appears later that a different course of action would have been safer6.
Even if your conduct was negligent but it was someone else’s negligence that caused the victim’s death, you cannot be convicted of this offense7.
If you believe that the police used unlawful procedures that lead to your DUI conviction, the procedures could be challenged to fight off a charge for negligent manslaughter while intoxicated. Also, if you were wrongfully charged with a DUI based on your appearance and/or conduct, the charge can be challenged, as the police officer could have mistaken your fatigue, sickness, or disorder for intoxication.
The sentencing for this offense depends on whether it was charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
|Fine||Up to $1,000||Up to $10,000|
|Jail||Up to 1 year||16 months, 2 or 4 years|
An additional, consecutive 3 to 6-year sentence can also be tacked on if any surviving victim(s) suffer great bodily injury under Penal Code 12022.7.
The state of California has implemented tough drunk driving laws, and some DUI offenders may be charged with both DUI and vehicular manslughter while intoxicated if they have killed someone with their vehicle while intoxicated. If you would like to speak to a DUI attorney confidentially please call our office at: (818) 351-9555 for a free consultation.
Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555
- California Penal Code 191.5(b); CALCRIM No. 591. [↩]
- Elements of the Predicate Unlawful Act. People v. Ellis (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 1334, 1339 [82 Cal.Rptr.2d 409] [↩]
- “Ordinary negligence” is the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to oneself or someone else. A person is negligent if he/she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person could do in the same situation. Ordinary Negligence. Penal Code 7, subd. 2; Rest.2d Torts, 282 [↩]
- An act causes death if the death is the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the act and the death would not have happened without the act. A natural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes. In deciding whether a consequence is natural and probable, consider all of the circumstances established by the evidence. [↩]
- CALCRIM No. 590. [↩]
- Imminent Peril/Sudden Emergency Doctrine. People v. Boulware (1940) 41 Cal.App.2d 268, 269 [106 P.2d 436]. [↩]
- Causation. People v. Rodriguez (1960) 186 Cal.App.2d 433, 440 [8 Cal. Rptr. 863] [↩]