A driver is facing DUI (driving under the influence) charges in connection with a Huntington Beach traffic accident that claimed the life of a bicyclist on Labor Day.
The incident occurred on Monday evening at about 6:30pm near Bolsa Chica Road and Oahu Drive. According to Huntington Beach police, the 55-year-old cyclist was rear-ended by a white Mercedes Benz sedan. He was transported to a local hospital but was later pronounced dead.
The driver of the car was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving but may face additional charges, pending a complete investigation into the collision.
In California, a driver who is suspected of causing a fatal car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs may face criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter or gross vehicular manslaughter. Second degree murder charges may even be filed in some extreme cases, such as if the driver has multiple prior DUI convictions on his or her record. Although the accident was not intentional and the driver certainly did not get behind the wheel with the goal of harming another person, he or she may still face serious charges.
Vehicular manslaughter and second degree murder involving DUI are criminal charges that involve general criminal intent rather than specific criminal intent. While a person who is charged with first degree murder may have planned the act and intended to kill or seriously injure the victim, a person who drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not necessarily intend to cause harm to others. This "general intent" may be sufficient to support manslaughter or second degree murder charges.
Penalties for a Fatal DUI Accident
California Penal Code § 192(c) defines vehicular manslaughter. This offense is described as:
- Committing an unlawful act (other than a felony) or a lawful act that may cause death;
- Committing this act with negligence or gross negligence; and
- Causing another's death as a result of this act.
Let's take a look at these three factors. First, the driver stands accused of committing an unlawful act. If a driver is suspected of DUI, this would support this aspect of a vehicular manslaughter charge. Second, the driver committed DUI with negligence or gross negligence. Negligence may be described as a failure to act with normal caution or care in the circumstances. DUI can be considered a negligent act, as a prosecutor could argue that a reasonably prudent person would not drink and drive. Third, the act must be linked to the death of another person. If the prosecution alleges that a drunk driver ran a red light and struck a bicycle rider, for example, this may fulfil the third and final aspect of a vehicular manslaughter charge.
Vehicular manslaughter may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the accident and whether the driver is accused of negligence or gross negligence. For negligence, a driver may face up to one year in county jail. For gross negligence, a driver may face up to six years in prison.
The severity and type of criminal charges the driver discussed in the case above may face will vary depending on the outcome of a police investigation.
If you are looking for information about DUI defense or are interested in hiring an aggressive attorney to challenge your arrest or charges, you have come to the right place. At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, we are proud to defend drivers' rights across Orange County in the face of all types of misdemeanor and felony DUI charges. Call today to see how a DUI lawyer can help you.