Los Angeles Vehicular Manslaughter Attorney
If you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, it is important to understand what is at stake. Vehicular manslaughter is a serious crime with severe penalties. It should not be taken lightly. If convicted, your rights and freedoms could be stripped from you, creating difficulty in finding a job, voting, and buying a house.
If you or a loved one faces a vehicular manslaughter charge, do not wait any longer to get in contact with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. With the help of a vehicular manslaughter defense team, your side of the story will have a better chance of being heard. At the Law Office of Stein & Markus, we are your best chance of not letting your conviction create problems for you in the future. We understand that everyone makes mistakes, and we will dig as deep as possible to find the appropriate evidence to best represent your side of the story.
What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter is defined as one individual unintentionally taking the life of another while driving negligently. This charge falls under California Penal code 192.
Negligent or distracted driving could involve cell phone use, failure to stop at a stop sign or traffic light, failure to yield, speeding, or any other type of negligent or inattentive actions. Based on the details of each specific case, the prosecutor will determine if the death of the individual was the cause of ordinary negligence or gross negligence.
The prosecutor has the right to charge your case as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the accident. Typically, when the prosecutor charges a case as ordinary negligence, this means the driver was simply being careless or not attentive to their surroundings. Ordinary negligence is most often classified as a misdemeanor.
Gross vehicular manslaughter is much more serious than ordinary negligence. If the prosecutor determines the accident to be a result of gross negligence, this means the driver who caused the accident displayed very reckless and risky behavior while driving — far beyond that of a careful driver. This charge could be the result of speeding well over the speed limit, especially in residential areas, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), ignoring traffic lights, or failing to comply with traffic laws.
These actions must showcase a high disregard for other human life. They are typically so severe that any ordinary person should know that by displaying these actions, they are running a risk of potential injury or death to themselves and others. Typically, these actions are inexcusable or far beyond a common human error. This disregard for the lives of others determines the severity of this charge.
How Is a Vehicular Manslaughter Conviction Determined?
To obtain a vehicular manslaughter conviction, the prosecutor must prove without any reasonable doubt all elements of the crime, including:
- The prosecuted party is without a doubt the driver who caused the death of another.
- The driver of the car has committed a crime that is without a doubt negligent.
- The negligent actions committed could lead to the death of another person.
- These negligent actions led to the death of another person.
Once the prosecutor has proven all these elements without reasonable doubt, they then have to determine if the actions were a result of ordinary negligence or gross negligence.
The main difference between the two convictions is the level of neglect. For example, an act of ordinary negligence could be the failure to use a turning signal or turning at an improper time while stopped at a four-way stop. Gross negligence is always more severe than common negligent mistakes and is often the result of driving under the influence.
Vehicular Manslaughter Penalties
The penalties for vehicular manslaughter vary depending on what type of conviction is given. If the crime is determined to be a misdemeanor, you could face up to one year in jail, a fine of $1,000, and three years of misdemeanor summary probation.
If the crime is a felony, you could face up to six years in a California state prison and a fine of as much as $10,000. There may be additional penalties depending on other various factors, such as if the crime occurred due to financial gain or if you fled the scene of the accident.
The court will declare someone has committed vehicular manslaughter for financial gain if they have intended to complete a negligent action in the hopes of getting money from their insurance company. This is also known as committing insurance fraud. It may not have been the individual’s intention to hurt another, but committing a negligent action while operating a motor vehicle can be premeditated.
What Is the Minimum Sentence for Vehicular Manslaughter in California?
Receiving a misdemeanor charge for vehicular manslaughter is the lightest sentence you can receive in California. In the case of a misdemeanor charge, the court must have proved that your actions were the cause of death of another. What differentiates this from a felony charge is the severity of the negligent behavior. Typically, a misdemeanor charge means an individual acted neglectfully but more due to distraction or lack of awareness. These mistakes are more common issues, such as not seeing a stop sign or failing to see a bicyclist cross in front of you.
The minimum charge you can receive from an ordinary misdemeanor charge is probation, less than one year of jail time, and a fine of less than $1,000.
What Is the Maximum Sentence for Vehicular Manslaughter in California?
Receiving a felony charge for vehicular manslaughter is the maximum charge you can receive, but the penalties depend on the specific case. If you have received a felony charge for vehicular manslaughter, that means you have exhibited gross negligence — or negligence beyond something an individual could exhibit accidentally.
In felony cases where it is proven beyond doubt that the driver was under the influence, driving negligently due to financial gain, or has fled the scene of the accident, the charges will be much higher, possibly reaching maximum sentencing. These charges could incur up to 10 years in jail and $10,000 in fines.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help Your Case
Having a criminal defense attorney on your side can make a huge difference in the results of your case. Police officers only hold one side of the story, and it is the job of an experienced defense attorney to represent your unheard story with as much evidence as possible. Some ways that a criminal defense attorney can help represent your unique case are as follows.
- DUI Charges - Police officers might try to make as many claims as possible to find you guilty, such as testifying to you being under the influence during the time of the accident. They may claim you exhibited signs of bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and slow reaction time, but many of these symptoms can also be a result of sickness, allergies, or the trauma of the accident. Breathalyzers are not always accurate and do not always properly account for body weight and temperature. Additionally, field sobriety tests are often inconclusive when given to individuals who are physically or mentally disabled. A defense attorney can revisit these claims and evaluate if there was enough substantial evidence to prove without reasonable doubt that you were under the influence during the time of the accident.
- Non-Negligent Actions - What constitutes a negligent action is often circumstantial and left up to the court to decide. Police officers may say an action is negligent when it is how most individuals might have reacted under the special circumstances of the case. To be proven guilty of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the individual who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident acted negligently, or not in a way the typical driver would react under the circumstances. A defense lawyer can delve deep into your case and compile evidence against the prosecution that your actions were reasonable in the specific circumstance and that they were the way anyone would most likely react in this same situation.
- Cause of Death - To face vehicular manslaughter charges, the prosecution must find a direct causal link to your negligent actions being the cause of death of another person. This must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the court can prove you were driving negligently when the accident occurred, there is still a chance that your actions were not the direct cause of death for the individual. A defense team would thus compile evidence showing that your negligent actions were not the natural and probable cause of death of the individual. They may even try to prove that another party was responsible for the person’s death instead. One way they may try to prove this is by gathering eyewitness accounts.
- An Emergency Situation - Since California law only classifies negligent driving to be that of which an average, cautious driver would not portray under the same circumstances, emergency situations often walk the line between negligent and circumstantial. For example, if a driver swerves to avoid hitting a dog that has run out in front of them and instead hits a pedestrian, killing them in the process, this could be an example of negligence in an emergency situation. Although an individual still lost their life, most individuals may have reacted in a similar or negligent way if put in the same scenario. In these circumstances, your defense lawyer is going to compile sufficient evidence showcasing the nature of the emergency situation. They’ll present the information to the court to illustrate how it was only the common reflex response under emergency circumstances, rather than being something intentional.
The Law Office of Stein & Markus: Your California Vehicular Manslaughter Defense Team
Receiving a vehicular manslaughter charge can feel like a bomb drop. You may be worried about the future of your job, family, or home. At the Law Office of Stein & Markus, we understand that accidents happen. Sometimes, these accidents can affect your quality of life for years to come. That is why we work so diligently with each of our clients to lessen their sentences and reduce the amount of harm these mistakes can inflict on their lives.
With 75 years of combined experience, our lawyers have worked on both spectrums of defense and prosecution. We have complete knowledge of the court and how each case is treated depending on the unique factors. We take care to pay special attention to you as an individual and are ready to treat your case with the care and attention to detail it deserves.
Without the help of an experienced defense team, you face the brutality of the California justice system on your own. Prosecutors do not go easy on vehicular manslaughter charges, and the penalties can be severe and life-altering. With our help, we will do our best to reduce, acquit, or dismiss your charges, letting you get back to the life you knew before the tragedy occurred. Contact our team today!
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