April 17, 2014 By Matthew Wallin

If you are facing charges of vehicular manslaughter, we understand that this can be a very traumatic and confusing time for you.

California Penal Code Section 192 defines manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. The law describes vehicular manslaughter as, “driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful or unlawful act which proximately resulted in the death of any person.” If you were driving a car and you killed someone, you are in violation of Penal Code Section 192(c).

Uber Driver Could Face Felony Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

vehicular manslaughter 3
You could be facing either misdemeanor or felony charges.

San Francisco police recently released the name of a driver who was allegedly involved in a crash that killed a 6-year-old girl. Syed Muzzafar, who was driving a car for the popular ride-service website Uber, could be facing charges of gross vehicular manslaughter for the death of Sophia Liu.

KQED News reported that Muzzafar failed to yield to pedestrians while making a right turn. The accident also resulted in life-threatening injuries to another woman and child. Liu was killed but the other two victims are expected to survive.1

Prosecutors are looking to charge Muzzafar with gross negligence vehicular manslaughter, which is often considered a felony.

What the Prosecution Must Prove to Convict You of Vehicular Manslaughter

In order to be convicted of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecution must prove each of the following:

  • While driving a vehicle, you committed a misdemeanor, infraction or otherwise lawful act in an unlawful manner; and
  • The misdemeanor infraction or otherwise lawful act was dangerous to human life under the circumstances of its commission; and
  • You committed the misdemeanor, infraction or otherwise lawful act with ordinary negligence; and
  • The misdemeanor, infraction or otherwise lawful act caused the death of another person.

Gross Negligence vs. Ordinary Negligence

Vehicular manslaughter in California is considered a “wobbler.” This means it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of your case and your past criminal history. Whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on whether you committed “ordinary negligence” or “gross negligence” while you were driving.

If you displayed ordinary negligence, you are more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor. PC 192 defines ordinary negligence as failing to do what a reasonable person would do to prevent harm to others in a similar situation. To be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence, the prosecution must prove the following:

  • You were driving the vehicle;
  • You committed a misdemeanor or other act that might cause death; and
  • You committed the act with ordinary negligence.2

Gross negligence is defined as driving without any caution or concern for the safety of others. Driving with gross negligence can also mean deliberately driving in a way that you know or should know is likely to cause harm. This is considered a much higher level of recklessness and you are more likely to be charged with a felony if you displayed gross negligence.

A number of other factors, such as speeding, racing, running red lights and intoxication, will play a role in determining whether you are charged with misdemeanor or felony vehicular manslaughter.

Sentencing and Punishment for Vehicular Manslaughter (California Penal Code Sections 191.5 and 193)

According to California Penal Code Section 193, a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail.

If you committed vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and you are convicted of a felony, you face two, four or six years in state prison. If the prosecution can prove that you were intoxicated at the time of the accident, you can face up to 10 years in prison. The DMV also has the right to suspend your license for up to one year.

Your criminal background can increase your sentence, according to California Penal Code Section 191.5. If you have previously been convicted of vehicular manslaughter, you could be imprisoned for life. If you have two or more DUI convictions on your record, your sentence could be increased to 15 years to life.3

Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you are being charged with vehicular manslaughter, it is important to seek help from an experienced attorney who can defend you aggressively. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending our clients facing charges of vehicular manslaughter for over 30 years.

With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys are available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

All of the information provided on this page was retrieved from the following sources:

1. http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2014/01/02/122446/

2. http://www.justia.com/criminal/docs/calcrim/500/593.html

3. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/appndxa/penalco/penco191_5.htm

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