Vehicular Manslaughter- Felony vs. Misdemeanor
Driving in southern California, especially in Los Angeles County, can be a very dangerous activity with the potential for life altering consequences. If a person drives a vehicle and unintentionally but unlawfully kills another human being, that person may be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter is governed by Penal Code section 192(c) and is a “ wobbler,” which means that it is within the prosecution’s discretion whether to file a felony or a misdemeanor. Usually, the driving conduct of the criminal defendant will determine whether they are charged with a felony versus a misdemeanor.Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter
Penal Code section 192(c)(2) explains that a person may be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter under the following circumstances: the person was driving using “ordinary negligence,” and a person was killed as a result of that driving conduct. The key distinction here is that the driver must have been using “ordinary negligence,” which is the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to oneself or someone else. This would be doing something that a reasonably careful driver would not do in the same situation, or failing to do something that a reasonably careful driver would do in the same situation.
An example of someone who is acting with ordinary negligence would be a driver rolling through a stop sign or speeding a few miles per hour above the posted speed limit in a residential neighborhood. In those cases, if the driver’s conduct causes another person’s death, then the driver would likely face misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges.Felony Vehicular Manslaughter
Penal Code section 192(c)(1) explains that a person may be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter under the following circumstances: the person was driving using “gross negligence,” and a person was killed as a result of that driving conduct. Here, the driver must have been using “gross negligence,” which involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or a lapse in judgment. A person acts with gross negligence when they act 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. Said another way, a person acts with gross negligence when they act in a way that is vastly different from how an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation and it is obvious through their actions that they have a total disregard or indifference towards human life or the consequences of their actions.
An example of someone who is acting with gross negligence would be a driver driving 80 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone, a driver who drove the wrong way on a highway, or a driver who was extremely intoxicated. In those cases, if the driver’s conduct causes another person’s death, then the driver could face felony vehicular manslaughter charges.
If you have driven and, as a result of your driving conduct another human being was killed, it is absolutely critical that you discuss your case with a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has successfully argued for felony vehicular manslaughters to be reduced to misdemeanors after the preliminary hearing, and has had vehicular manslaughter charges dismissed entirely.
For more information about vehicular manslaughter, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.