Criminal Attorney in Sacramento

Criminal Attorney in Sacramento Defines the Nuances of Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter in California is defined as causing the death of another individual while driving a vehicle. It consists of both negligently committing an unlawful act that is not a felony, or by a lawful act, that resulted in the death of another individual. Essentially, it means killing someone while driving negligently. If a death resulted from the driving of a vehicle while committing a felony, that individual could be charged with murder under the California felony-murder rule. Vehicular manslaughter can get extremely complicated so be sure to seek advice from a criminal attorney in Sacramento who can assist you in your case.

If vehicular manslaughter was committed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an individual could be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Below are some activities that could lead to a charge of vehicular manslaughter if a fatality occurs:

  • Texting while driving
  • Speeding while driving
  • Intentionally crashing a car
  • Driving recklessly or dangerously

If you were the driver who caused a fatal car accident, contact a criminal attorney in Sacramento immediately.

Types of Vehicular Manslaughter

The penalties for vehicular manslaughter under California law depend on several factors under either ordinary negligence or gross negligence. Ordinary negligence is considered a misdemeanor with maximum penalties of a jail sentence of up to 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It indicates a lack of reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to another person. An example could be a driver taking a turn too quickly without checking for pedestrian traffic and accidentally striking and killing an individual crossing the road.

Gross negligence could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As with most legal situations, the charges will depend on the circumstances of the offense and any prior convictions the defendant may have. Being charged with a felony may result in serious consequences such as:

  • Felony probation
  • Up to six years in state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Gross negligence means the negligence must have directly caused the death of another person. The action must be reasonably expected to lead to death. As an example, if an individual is weaving through traffic and runs a red light, striking and killing a pedestrian, they could be looking at felony charges. Unlike the turning scenario above, the driver is committing an unlawful act that is likely to result in death. An individual may be charged with gross negligence vehicular manslaughter even if they are not the direct cause of death. If an individual strikes a pedestrian in a grossly negligent way, and that action leads to them being struck and killed by a different car, the driver of the first vehicle would likely receive the manslaughter charges. Each and every case is unique and has their own set of variables, it’s crucial you seek help from a criminal attorney in Sacramento who can begin to build a defense.

Manslaughter for Financial Gain

When an individual purposefully causes a collision so that he or she may file an insurance claim and an individual is killed in the process, this is considered vehicular manslaughter. Manslaughter for financial gain is always considered a felony and penalties for such an act may include:

  • Up to ten years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Suspension of Driver’s License

When an individual is convicted of either vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence or a manslaughter for financial gain charge, that person loses his or her license for a period of at least three years. If that individual drives without a license, he or she may incur charges of driving without a license.


Though it is very traumatizing to be involved in a car collision in which an individual is killed, it’s important to understand the gravity of the situation. Over 30,000 individuals die from car crashes every year in California alone. A survivor may be charged with vehicular manslaughter even if it seems to be clearly an accident. Survivors often feel guilty, but it’s important to keep the facts in perspective.

Frequent arguments for defense include:

  • The absence of negligence – negligence may be hard to prove as acting appropriately is a subjective issue. People make erroneous decisions all the time that aren’t necessarily negligent. Also downgrading from gross to ordinary negligence could vastly change the outcome of the penalties.
  • The negligence did not cause the fatality – if the death of the victim can be suggested to be the fault of a third party, such as due to improper signage or roads in disrepair, this could aid the case of the defendant. A good attorney will search every crevice to determine exactly who was at fault.
  • There was an emergency that justifies the negligent driving – this relinquishes fault from an individual who, for example, swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid a deer, causing a collision, and ultimately, a death.

Have you been involved in a car collision during which an individual died? It’s important to contact a criminal attorney in Sacramento to obtain a strong defense in the tragic incident that charges are brought against you. Your best defense is to be informed and with the deeply complex laws in place, an attorney may be your best bet at understanding your rights.