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California Drunk Driving - Vehicular Manslaughter

When a driving incident occurs that results in a person’s death, the police conduct an extensive investigation.  If it is determined that alcohol was a factor the police will usually charge the suspected drunk driver of vehicular manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a felony charge in California.  Gross negligence is described as “when an individual is considered to have been driving without caution and/or concern for the safety of others.”  Depending upon the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident, vehicular manslaughter is a “wobbler” crime and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony; however, if it is established that gross negligence occurred, then it can only be charged as a felony. 

Gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol is one of the most serious DUI offenses.  Although it is natural to believe that drunk drivers do not set out with the intent to cause injury or death to another, prosecutors will argue that DUI defendants knew that their actions were dangerous and could have resulted in such an occurrence to happen, especially when they have prior DUI convictions.  It is important to note that a charge of gross vehicular manslaughter can not be filed solely on the fact that the driver was intoxicated and should have known their actions could cause injury or death to another.  Rather, other facts must also be present, such as the driver was speeding and acting recklessly and/or ignored the advice of others who told the driver not to drive. 

Under California’s Penal Code 191.5, gross vehicular manslaughter that occurs while intoxicated can result in up to ten years in the state prison.  If the DUI defendant has prior DUI convictions, then under Courtney’s Law, the DUI defendant can be sentenced to 15 years to life in a state prison.  Vehicular manslaughter is a very serious DUI offense and it is prudent that DUI defendants facing such a charge to retain California DUI attorneys who are highly skilled in handling such cases. 

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