24 Jan What is Vehicular Manslaughter in California?
Sally Braveheart (not her real name) was driving her car to the grocery store and in her car were her three daughters and one son. They were making a lot of noise and Sally, feeling frustrated, was telling everyone to be quiet and stop arguing. But, as young children can be, they were not paying attention to her.
Sally turned onto the main street leading to the grocery store’s parking lot, but as she finished the turn, one of her daughters spilled her drink all over the back seat and started crying. Sally, at her wit’s end, turned back and yelled at the children to clean up the mess quickly, pointing at a roll of paper towels found on the floor board.
As Sally turned back to face the street in front of her, a young boy on a bicycle rode out into the street in front of her, from between two parked vehicles to her right. Sally had no time to react and she hit the child straight on. The impact sound was deafening and horrifying. She was screaming, her children were screaming.
Sally got out of the car and saw the young boy there, laying several feet away from his bicycle, which was now pinned under Sally’s front tires. Sally ran up to the boy, yelling at bystanders to call the police and ambulance. Several were already on their phone.
As she reached the boy, she realized he was dead. She tried to find a pulse in his neck but there was none. Others moved in to try and help, while Sally stood up, her shaking hands covering her face.
This is a scene that, unfortunately, happens often when children do not check the road first before entering it while on a bicycle. For Sally, it would be an event she would never forget. Sally called her husband who came right over from work to be with her, and arrived just as the police and EMS got there.
California Penal Code 192(c)
PC 192(c) covers vehicular manslaughter and can be charged as vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence or with ordinary negligence. Under gross negligence and depending on the circumstances, the charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, better known as a wobbler.
If it is a charge of vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence, as Sally would be charged under, then the maximum sentence, as a misdemeanor, would be one year in county jail. For gross negligence, if convicted as a felony, the sentence is six years in state prison.
What is crucial to the case are the following factors that criminal defense attorneys use:
- What was in the line of sight that blocked seeing the boy until he passed beyond the two parked vehicles (the two vehicles were a pickup truck and a 4-door sedan, with the truck found in the closer position to Sally in her car),
- Sally was not negligent as she turned around in enough time; the truck blocked both her line of sight as well as the boy’s line of sight, so neither saw each other until too late,
- The boy was negligent for not stopping and looking both ways before entering the street,
In a perfect world, one would think to get pictures of the vehicles found on the street by the accident. The location of the truck would be evidence that verified Sally’s claim. Other witnesses also verified that the boy did not stop as he left the sidewalk and went between the cars.
If you have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, call us at once for a consultation. (619) 234-2300