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The Legal Implications When A Driving Offense Causes Death

Last updated 2 years ago

In California, when a driver kills another person because of negligence or intoxication, it can lead to a charge of vehicular manslaughter. Read on for more information about the charge of vehicular manslaughter and the penalties it carries.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Though vehicular manslaughter is a general term for a homicide caused by a driver operating a vehicle, it can be classified and charged differently based on several factors. The severity of the offense varies based on the degree of negligence involved and whether or not the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The degree of negligence can be characterized as either ordinary or gross. Vehicular manslaughter because of ordinary negligence refers to deaths caused by failure to act with usual caution, including acts of carelessness or inattention; gross negligence, on the other hand, usually involves a traffic violation, like running a red light, driving recklessly, or racing. Either of these levels of negligence can be further compounded by intoxication. A death caused by a driver under the influence of alcohol can be charged with a felony vehicular homicide or, in some cases, as second-degree murder


Vehicular manslaughter is a type of offense known as a “wobbler,” which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence, for example, may result in a misdemeanor penalty of one year in jail, but vehicular manslaughter with DUI may result in a felony charge and a sentence of at least four years in state prison. Judges consider the individual facts of each case to decide sentencing, such as the level of negligence involved, whether alcohol was present, and the role that the deceased party played in his own death.

California takes vehicular manslaughter very seriously and often looks for reasons to charge defendants with felonies. If you’ve been arrested for vehicular manslaughter, contact Hinkle, Jachimowicz, Pointer & Emanuel today at (408) 916-1413. Located in San Jose, our lawyers can defend you against the serious criminal charges that have been leveled against you.


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