Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Orange County Vehicular Manslaughter attorney

Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was under the influence in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.

What this basically means is that if you were driving under the influence, while driving you committed an additional misdemeanor/infraction/lawful act that might cause death, you acted with gross negligence, and the act caused the death of someone else.

A person acts with gross negligence if he/she acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated is a felony and a conviction can result in a prison sentence of four, six, or ten years. There are a number of other penalties if convicted of this crime such as a driver’s license suspension, heavy fines, and a strike on your criminal record.

Elements

The following shows the elements of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated that the prosecutor must prove. It is also the instructions that the jury will read before determining a verdict. Notice that the instructions are lengthy because the prosecution does have a heavy burden of proving every element in this crime in order to convict. It’s important to consult with an experienced Orange County Vehicular Manslaughter attorney if you were arrested. Call today at (714) 248-DOAN (3626).

The defendant is charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated [in violation of Penal Code section 191.5(a)].

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

  1. The defendant (drove under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug]/drove while having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher/drove under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug] when under the age of 21/drove while having a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or higher when under the age of 21);
  2. While driving that vehicle under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug], the defendant also committed (a/an) (misdemeanor[,]/ [or] infraction[,]/ [or] otherwise lawful act that might cause death);
  3. The defendant committed the (misdemeanor[,]/ [or] infraction[,]/ [or] otherwise lawful act that might cause death) with gross negligence; AND
  4. The defendant’s grossly negligent conduct caused the death of another person.

Gross negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. A person acts with gross negligence when:

  1. He or she acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; AND
  2. A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.

In other words, a person acts with gross negligence when the way he or she acts is so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of that act.

The combination of driving a vehicle while under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [and/or] a drug) and violating a traffic law is not enough by itself to establish gross negligence. In evaluating whether the defendant acted with gross negligence, consider the level of the defendant’s intoxication, if any; the way the defendant drove; and any other relevant aspects of the defendant’s conduct.

[Great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.]

[A person facing a sudden and unexpected emergency situation not caused by that person’s own negligence is required only to use the same care and judgment that an ordinarily careful person would use in the same situation, even if it appears later that a different course of action would have been safer.]

[An act causes death if the death is the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the act and the death would not have happened without the act. A natural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes. In deciding whether a consequence is natural and probable, consider all of the circumstances established by the evidence.]

[There may be more than one cause of death. An act causes death only if it is a substantial factor in causing the death. A substantial factor is more than a trivial or remote factor. However, it does not need to be the only factor that causes the death.]

[The People allege that the defendant committed the following (misdemeanor[s][,]/ [and] infraction[s][,]/ [and] otherwise lawful act[s] that might cause death): <insert alleged predicate acts when multiple acts alleged>. You may not find the defendant guilty unless all of you agree that the People have proved that the defendant committed at least one of these alleged (misdemeanors[,]/ [or] infractions[,]/ [or] otherwise lawful acts that might cause death) and you all agree on which (misdemeanor[,]/ [or] infraction[,]/ [or] otherwise lawful act that might cause death) the defendant committed.]

[The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of that crime. You must consider whether the defendant is guilty of the lesser crime[s] of <insert lesser offense[s]>.]