It happens, people get behind the wheel after having too many alcoholic
drinks, they get into an accident, and they end up killing one of their
own passengers, another driver, a pedestrian, or a motorcyclist.
The drunk driver made a mistake, a big mistake. They never meant to hurt
anyone, but they did. Not only is the victim’s family grieving,
but so is the drunk driver; they are devastated.
In California, when impaired drivers kill innocent people in drunk or drugged-driving
crashes, they are generally charged with either:
- Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, or
- Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated.
Under Sec. 191.5(a), Gross
vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated refers to the unintentional and unlawful killing of
another human being while in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153
of the Vehicle Code.
In this case, the death was directly caused by the unlawful act, which
did not amount to a felony, and was committed with
gross negligence. Gross vehicular manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment in the state
prison for 4, 6, or 10 years.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
Under Sec. 191.5(b), vehicular manslaughter is a lesser charge. Under this
section, the driver accidentally killed another human being while in violation
of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153, but without the element of “gross
Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is punishable by 16 months, 2
years, or 4 years in prison.
Negligence vs. Gross Negligence
In California, when an impaired driver accidentally kills another person
while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can be charged
with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (the more serious
of the two), or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
For example, if a woman was driving with a
blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% and she lost control of her car and slammed into a tree
and killed her passenger, she will likely be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
On the other hand, if she had a BAC of .15%, ran several red lights and
got into a head-on collision going the wrong way on a freeway, killing
another driver, she would likely be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter
because she acted with “gross negligence.”
When people acted only with ordinary negligence, they are usually charged
with Penal Code 191.5(b), vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Call the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc.
We hope this clarifies the difference between gross vehicular manslaughter
while intoxicated and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in California.
For further advice and legal representation,
contact our office to meet with an
Orange County DUI lawyer for free!