In Orange County and throughout the nation, it seems like almost everybody drinks alcohol to some degree, only if it’s on special occasions. While there are laws criminalizing driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, people still have a hard time understanding how much alcohol (or drugs) is too much.
This situation is understandable considering that people don’t ordinarily get any alcohol education until it’s too late and they are arrested for DUI and ordered to attend DUI School.
Fatal DUI Accidents Affect Many Lives
People drink and drive, and some people think they’re being safe by only having two drinks, while others have only one drink but don’t realize that their prescription medication cannot be mixed with alcoholic drinks, and in effect, they become hazardous drivers.
Regardless of the circumstances, ordinary citizens get into DUI accidents that end up killing their passengers, pedestrians, fellow drivers and others. Sometimes, the victim is the drunk or drugged driver’s own family member. Fatal DUIs are both tragic and accidental, and many lives are affected.
What if someone is killed in a DUI accident?
In California, if a driver kills someone else while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including lawfully prescribed drugs, he or she can be charged with either: 1) gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or 2) vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Under Section 191.5 (a), a person commits gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated when they unintentionally kill another human being while driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the killing was the result of: committing an unlawful act (not a felony) with gross negligence, or a lawful act that may produce death with gross negligence, but in an unlawful manner.
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony, punishable by 4, 6, or 10 years in prison.
Under Section 191.5(b), a person commits vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated when they unintentionally kill another person while driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and the death was a direct result of the defendant committing a misdemeanor (without gross negligence), or while committing an illegal act that could produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.
Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated results in a sentence of 16 months, 2, or 4 years.
Was gross negligence involved?
The major difference between sections 191.5(a) and (b) is “gross negligence,” which refers to acting in such a negligent way, as to pose a high risk of injury or death upon others.
For example, if someone drives 60 mph in a school zone while under the influence and kills a child walking home from school, they will likely be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated because driving 60 mph in a 15 mph school zone is grossly negligent.
On the other hand, if a drunk driver is driving the speed limit on the freeway and they lose control of their vehicle, causing their vehicle to roll over three times, and they kill their passenger who was not wearing a seatbelt, they will likely be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated because losing control of their vehicle doesn’t necessarily amount to gross negligence.
Were you involved in a fatal DUI accident in Orange County? If so, you need a strong defense. Contact our firm to speak with a Board Certified DUI defense specialist for free.