Depending on the nature of your charges, you might face serious consequences if you've been charged with a driving offense. In addition to the revocation of your driver's license, you might face penalties, a sentence, required classes, probation, and a criminal record, all of which might hinder your ability to find work. 

The legal professionals at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm have been assisting clients in the City of Riverside with a variety of driving violation accusations for many years, including DUI, vehicular manslaughter, driving without a legal driver's license, to mention a few. We know how to put up a strong defense and increase the chances of a successful case outcome. Please don't consider the crime as minor, and contact us right away to fight for your rights.

Vehicular Manslaughter Under the California Law

In California, vehicular manslaughter is defined as driving in a careless manner that results in the death of other persons. The severity of the offense and the penalty are determined by the extent of negligence of the driver, his or her previous criminal history, or whether he or she was intoxicated.

If your actions result in the loss of the life of another individual in California, you could face criminal penalties. Homicide charges will be brought against you if you murder another person on purpose. You are likely to face allegations of manslaughter if you inadvertently cause the death of another party. If you kill someone accidentally while driving a car, you will very certainly be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

The prosecution must show certain "components of the offense" to convict you of gross-negligence vehicular manslaughter:

  • When driving a car, you engaged in a crime or a felony, or you perpetrated a legal action in a manner that could result in death
  • Under the same circumstances, the action you performed was threatening to a person’s life 
  • You perpetrated it with severe negligence
  • Another individual died as a result of your actions

The Difference Between Murder, Homicide or Manslaughter in California

If you have been accused of homicide, murder, or manslaughter in California, you could be wondering what the variations are between homicide, murder, and manslaughter. Although the phrases may appear to be interchangeable, they all relate to various sorts of crimes.


The killing of one person by another is known as a homicide. This is a wide word that refers to both legitimate and unlawful executions. A soldier, for instance, may murder another soldier in combat, but this is not a crime. There are several circumstances in which killing another person is not considered a crime.

As a result, the distinction between lawful and unlawful killing is the divide between murder and manslaughter.


Murder is a type of homicide in which someone is killed unlawfully. Murder is described as one individual murdering another with malice aforethought under California Penal Code Section 187. Malice is defined as knowing and intending to do something wrong. When someone murders another person with the purpose to do so, this is known as malice aforethought.


Manslaughter is a type of homicide in which someone is killed unintentionally. These are considered far less serious offenses than murder. Manslaughter can be classified as either intentional or unintentional.

When an individual kills someone else without intending to do so, it is known as voluntary manslaughter. Killing done in the heat of passion is an example of voluntary manslaughter. The intention was to kill or injure another person, but the conduct was not planned ahead of time. The provocation must be sufficient that a sensible person acting in similar circumstances would respond similarly.

Involuntary manslaughter occurs when an individual is killed as a result of another's willful disregard for human life. Unintentional manslaughter is done without forethought or real intent to kill, but it nevertheless results in the death of another individual.

Vehicular manslaughter happens when an individual dies in an automobile collision as a result of another driver's excessive carelessness or even basic negligence.

Gross Negligence vs. Ordinary Negligence

When a driver drives with extreme carelessness, the penalties for vehicular manslaughter are more severe. Negligence arises when you fail to uphold a legal obligation of care to others.

As a driver, you instantly owe a duty of care to other motorists, pedestrians, and anybody else who could be injured. This responsibility requires the possession of a valid driver's license, adherence to traffic regulations, and overall safe operation of the vehicle. Negligence is defined as a violation of this obligation.

Gross Negligence

If the prosecution cannot prove gross negligence, you could simply be charged with ordinary vehicular manslaughter.

Gross negligence is more than just carelessness, lack of concentration, or an error in discernment. Gross negligence arises only when:

  • An individual behaves in a way that puts them in danger of a fatality or serious physical harm
  • A reasonable individual would have realized that behaving in this manner would put them in danger

Gross negligence occurs when an individual behaves so differently in a similar scenario than a usually sensible person would, indicating actual contempt for a person’s life or the repercussions of his or her conduct.

Ordinary Negligence

Ordinary vehicular manslaughter is defined by Penal Code 192 PC. The following are the characteristics of this offense:

  • You engaged in an infraction when driving a vehicle, or you did a legal act in an illegimate way
  • The conduct you performed was harmful to human life in those circumstances
  •  You perpetrated that action with ordinary negligence
  • Your action resulted in the death of another individual

The primary distinction between ordinary and gross negligence is that the former demands negligence. Ordinary negligence, as defined by PC 192, is that you neglected to use rational care to prevent someone else from suffering a fairly predictable injury.

Vehicular Manslaughter Whilst Intoxicated

This entails killing another individual while in infringement of the state's Driving Under the Influence, underage Driving Under the Influence, or Boating Under the Influence laws, and negligently disobeying traffic regulations or doing a lawful act that may illegally result in death. 

Negligent and gross vehicular manslaughter, in this case, is similar except for the state of mind, the prosecutor must show that the defendant was guilty of gross carelessness rather than simple negligence.

What Constitutes Negligent Intoxicated Vehicular Manslaughter?

This type of manslaughter is defined by the law in a complex way. Because there was no intention to kill a person, manslaughter accusations are comparable to murder charges but are less severe. As a result, the law employs a very precise definition. We'll go through each part of the definition in detail below.

To begin, there's Negligent Vehicular Manslaughter. All of the following must have occurred while intoxicated:

  • You illegally caused the death of a person
  • You committed the crime without malice, which means your acts were not motivated by a callous contempt for human life
  • You committed it while behind the wheel of a car

You were drunk while operating a motor vehicle, which may mean your blood alcohol level was.08 percent or above, or it could simply indicate you were affected by drugs and alcohol, regardless of the quantity in your body.

In addition, one of the following conditions must be met:

  • The other individual died because you breached some other road or safety legislation (including DUI) and did so without gross carelessness
  • You committed something that was not precisely unlawful but that you knew might be harmful and did so without gross negligence.

The notion that the charge's definition is so complex is beneficial to your argument. It implies that the prosecutor must prove each of the factors listed above. You will not be found guilty of this crime if they are unable to do so. This indicates that many DUI offenders facing manslaughter accusations will be able to negotiate a reduced penalty or perhaps win their case.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Vehicular Manslaughter

If your blood alcohol level was .08 or higher at the moment of your reported crime, you might face a DUI penalty as well as a charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is defined as the wrongful death of a person by a vehicle without malice aforethought, and the homicide occurred as a result of either.

Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain

Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain is a specific type of vehicular manslaughter. This happens if:

  • You intentionally cause or engage in an accident while driving a car
  • You commit this act with the knowledge that the accident intends to file a fraudulent insurance claim for financial benefit
  • You commit the act to defraud the insurance company or some other party
  • The accident resulted in a fatality 
  • You inadvertently kill a person while purposely destroying a car to perpetrate insurance fraud, then you will be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

A defense attorney may seek to prove that an accused wasn't in control of the car, that the defendant did all he or she could to avoid the accident, or that the collision was not the primary cause of the victim's death in a vehicular manslaughter case. The penalties will be vehicular homicide unless the motorist is meant to injure another person.

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter

Consequences, penalties, and sentences for vehicular manslaughter vary according to the kind of offense you've been charged with.

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter with Gross Negligence 

This is usually a wobbler case. This implies that, depending on the circumstances, it might be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor.

  • Your criminal background
  • The conditions of the crime

The following are the possible repercussions if you have been indicted of gross negligence vehicular manslaughter:

  • Probation for misdemeanors 
  • A maximum penalty of one year in state prison
  • A penalty of approximately $1,000 might be imposed

Penalties for Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter 

The following are the penalties for a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter:

  • Probation for misdemeanors (summary),
  • A maximum penalty of one year in county prison
  • A punishment of approximately $1,000 might be imposed.

Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain 

According to Penal Code 192 PC, vehicular manslaughter for financial gain motives is a crime. A charge of approximately $10,000 and/or four, six, or ten years in county prison are among the punishments that might be imposed. 

Suspension of Driver's License

The California DMV will suspend your driver's license if you have been accused of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence or vehicular manslaughter for monetary benefit. And you won't be allowed to renew your license for a minimum of three years following the suspension date.

How Can You Fight Charges of Vehicular Manslaughter

It is a reality that accidents occur when individuals drive vehicles. However, when horrible accidents occur, prosecutors may file vehicular manslaughter charges, even if the accusations are unwarranted or harsh.

If this happens, you and a criminal defense attorney can utilize numerous defenses to try and beat accusations (or have them lessened). These are some of them:

You Were Struck with an Unexpected Emergency and Acted Appropriately in the Circumstances

In a sudden and unforeseen emergency, the defendant is simply obliged to use the same caution and judgment as a usually cautious person would use in the same scenario, according to California vehicular manslaughter law.

If this was the case, he or she was neither negligent nor severely negligent.

Let's assume you veered into approaching traffic to avoid hitting a deer or driving over loose gravel, both of which would have damaged your vehicle. You can claim that your actions were not careless enough to warrant a vehicular manslaughter conviction in this scenario.

You Didn’t Act in a Negligent or Reckless Manner

In situations of vehicular manslaughter, negligence might be difficult to prove. Both meanings allude to a “rational person” norm of behavior, that appears objective but in fact highly subjective and difficult to describe.”

Being a driver of a vehicle necessitates everyone to make rapid judgments, and it might be difficult to demonstrate that these choices, even though they later prove to be poor, were irresponsible.

Alternatively, if you have been accused of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, your lawyer may effectively dispute that your actions were just negligent rather than egregious. This can drastically minimize your possible fines, as well as prevent you from having your driver's license revoked for three years.

The Victim's Death was not Caused By Your Carelessness

In cases involving vehicle accidents, determining the chain of events can be difficult. Even though you drove carelessly or recklessly and someone died as a result, the prosecution may be unable to establish that it was your carelessness, rather than the victim's or a third party's, that contributed to the death, and therefore that you are accused of PC 192 vehicular manslaughter.

With the aid of an accident reconstruction expert witness, a competent criminal defense attorney will be able to counter the prosecution's version of events.

Related Felonies

Many related offenses can be charged rather than, or in addition to, vehicular manslaughter.

Intoxicated  or Gross Vehicular Manslaughter 

Under PC 192, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a different offense from vehicular manslaughter. This legislation only applies if you are accused of causing a fatality while driving and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

PC 191.5 defines gross vehicular manslaughter while inebriated as the wrongful killing of another person while driving while intoxicated and with gross carelessness.

Under Vehicle Code 23152 driving while drunk entails:

  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • With a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher 
  • With a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .05 or higher while under 21 years old
  • Or while Driving Under the Influence of drugs

Penal Code Without extreme negligence, vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler case, penalized by up to one year in county imprisonment or a prison term of sixteen months, two years, or three years.

However, under Penal Code 191.5, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a crime punishable by four, six, or ten years in state prison.

Under penal Code 191.5 vehicle manslaughter while drunk includes a "minor included charge" of vehicular manslaughter. If you have been accused of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and the prosecutor is unable to persuade the jury that you were inebriated.

Watson Murder/DUI Murder

Heinous incidents of DUI-related fatalities are tried as murder instead of vehicular manslaughter.

If you kill an individual while driving under the influence in California, the prosecutors could prosecute you with DUI or "Watson" murder if the following are correct:

  • You have a history of DUI offenses; and
  • You were either taught about the hazards of Driving Under the Influence, or you were presented with something called a Watson advisement after a previous DUI conviction.

A Watson advisement is usually a caution that driving under the influence of substances is very harmful to a  human’s life, and that murdering a person while Driving Under the Influence could result in murder charges.

Is DUI Always Included in Vehicular Manslaughter?

Drunk driving is required for vehicular manslaughter under the California Penal Code 192. A driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if he or she commits a negligent action that is not caused by drinking. For example, a driver may speed excessively and collide with another car, resulting in the death of another driver. While the driver's conduct was irresponsible, they were not caused by drug or alcohol abuse.

Accidents committed by a motorist for financial benefit are likewise covered by California Penal Code 192. For example, under this legislation, an individual might be prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter if he or she purposefully provoked an accident to collect insurance money. Under California's vehicle insurance fraud rules, this is also a felony. Non-drug or alcohol-related acts of carelessness include:

  • Speeding
  • Texting while driving 
  • Making a phone call
  • Driving across a crosswalk

When to Contact an Attorney

You should call an attorney as soon as you are aware of an investigation. Whether you feel you are guilty of irresponsible behavior, a defense attorney can examine the matter more closely and provide you with a more full picture. Cases of vehicular manslaughter are rarely as easy as they look. Attorneys have uncovered car malfunctions or other outside causes for the collision and consequent fatality in some situations.

Don't wait until you're facing vehicular manslaughter accusations. The earlier a criminal defense lawyer can begin working on your issue, the greater your prospects of getting your charges dropped or reduced.

What to Do If You Have Been in an Accident

You must remain at the scene of any collision until law enforcement officers release you. In case you are unharmed, attempt to assist anybody who is, and notify emergency services. Take photographs of the situation and attempt to jot down the details as quickly as possible. Do not undertake a breathalyzer test on the spot if there is a possibly escalating element in the situation, such as DUI. Contact a counsel as soon as possible.

What are My Odds of Fighting Off a DUI Charge for Negligent Vehicular Manslaughter?

It is feasible, and your chances are better if you have a skilled DUI defense attorney on your side. Your lawyer will begin by conducting an investigation, which will include the following:

  • Recreating the events surrounding the accident
  • Determining whether cops acted lawfully in arresting you and whether any of your rights were violated
  • Examining how the breath/blood test was performed and whether the findings of the test may be suppressed

Then they'll search for flaws with the prosecutor's case in terms of proof. Did you, for instance, breach any other laws besides DUI? Was there any culpability on the other individual's part in the accident? Could the collision have occurred if you hadn't been drinking? Any of these factors can sabotage the prosecutor's case and make it extremely difficult to convict you. You might be able to get the charge lowered or perhaps win your case at that time.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Whether you're charged with vehicular manslaughter or murder, the stakes couldn't be greater. Your freedom, your rights, and your future are all on the line. You may be imprisoned for years and ruin your image and career if you make a single mistake. You can't just hire any lawyer to represent you.

Choose a law firm that specializes in criminal defense in Riverside. With our extensive expertise, we can tackle your case from new perspectives that other attorneys may not have considered. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we strive to preserve the country's presumption of innocence—you are innocent unless proven guilty. Call our office at 951-946-6366 to learn more.