What Is DUI Manslaughter?

DUI manslaughter is a term that refers to a criminal charge that occurs if you allegedly caused or were involved in an accident that killed someone else. This charge requires that you be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and operating a vehicle at the time the accident occurred. Some people use the term vehicular homicide to mean the same thing as vehicular manslaughter.

Typically, you can’t be convicted of both DUI charges and DUI manslaughter charges for the same offense.

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated in California

The potential penalties for a conviction of Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated in California depends on the facts of the case. That includes whether you were grossly negligent in the accident as well as your history of DUIs or other convictions.

A conviction of Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated can mean jail or prison time as well as a fine up to $10,000. The amount of jail or prison time depends on whether it is your first offense or not. Sentence ranges include:

  • Up to one year in the county jail
  • Up to 16 months in the state prison
  • Between two and four years in the state prison

A conviction of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated can mean prison time of up to two, six, or ten years, depending on prior convictions and other facts of your case. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

What Is the Difference Between Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated and Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated?

Both Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated and Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated are serious criminal charges that involve causing the death of another person while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, the main difference between the two charges is the level of recklessness or negligence involved in the alleged crime.

In general, Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated is considered a more serious charge than Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated because it involves a higher level of recklessness or gross negligence. For example, say you have a few drinks at a party and get behind the wheel. You believe you are fine to drive and may even think you’re under the legal limit. You proceed to drive home but make a rolling stop at a stop sign or fail to yield, causing a fatal accident. Blood alcohol tests indicate that you were, in fact, over the legal limit at the time of the incident. In this case, you would likely be charged with Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated.

Now, contrast that with a different example. This time, you have many drinks at a party and attempt to drive home. You have a hard time focusing on the road ahead of you and are aware that you are not staying within your lane. If you continue to drive despite these facts and cause a fatal accident, you might be charged with Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated. This is because you ignored signs that driving was dangerous and continued forward with a high level of recklessness.

Can You Be Convicted of Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated When Using Prescription Drugs?

Yes, if you are driving under the influence of prescription drugs and cause an accident that leads to a fatality, it is possible to be convicted of this crime. Obviously, criminal court judges and juries take into account mitigating factors and all the details of a potential crime when coming to verdicts and sentencing decisions. This is why a strong defense against the charges is important; your criminal defense attorney can help make a case including mitigating factors.

However, it’s also critical to operate machinery, including cars and trucks, with utmost safety whenever possible. If you are taking prescription drugs prescribed by a physician, follow the instructions and precautions about driving to try to avoid such an incident.

What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove About Your Intoxication?

The prosecution does have to make a case to prove you were driving under the influence at the time of the accident. That usually requires evidence such as a test demonstrating a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or above.

What Else Does the Prosecutor Have to Prove?

The prosecutor must also prove that you took some action that caused an accident—or failed to take an action that would have avoided the accident. This can include committing a traffic violation such as running a traffic light, speeding, or failing to yield. It might also include an otherwise legal act that was not reasonable at the time, such as driving on a road that was icy or pulling into a lane of traffic you had a right to while another car was clearly traveling toward you in it.

For a conviction of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, the prosecution also has to demonstrate that you acted with gross negligence. In both cases, the prosecution must demonstrate that a fatality occurred because of the accident caused by your actions (or lack of reasonable action).

Get Help Defending Yourself Against DUI Manslaughter Charges

The best way to protect your freedom and rights is to ensure a solid defense against the prosecution’s case. If that may not be possible due to the evidence against you, a criminal defense attorney may be able to help you negotiate or act to support the most positive outcome available to you. To find out more about DUI manslaughter defense options, contact Confianza Legal.