California Vehicular Manslaughter Laws – Penal Code 192(c) PC

January 1, 2018

If you have been arrested or charged with vehicular manslaughter, then the government is charging you under Penal Code 192(c) pc alleging that you unlawfully killed someone with a motor with gross or ordinary negligence.[1] While the act itself was a complete accident, the prosecution is alleging that your conduct prior to the killing was beyond that of a reasonable prudent driver under the circumstances.

Vehicular manslaughter is generally a wobbler – allowing the prosecution to charge you with either a felony or misdemeanor. If your conduct only rose to the level ordinary negligence, the prosecutor will charge you with misdemeanor homicide. However, if you acted with gross negligence, the prosecutor may elect to charge you with either a felony or misdemeanor.


Elements for California Vehicular Manslaughter

The prosecutor must prove all the requisite elements in order to find you guilty of vehicular manslaughter under PC 192(c)(1)/(2). Specifically, the prosecutor holds the burden of proving:

  1. You drove or operated a motor vehicle or vessel;
  2. You committed a misdemeanor, infraction, or lawful act in an unlawful manner;
  3. You drove or operated the motor vehicle or vessel with gross or ordinary negligence;
  4. Your conduct caused the death of another person.

Punishment & Sentencing for PC 192(c)

Vehicular manslaughter is punishable as a misdemeanor in the county jail for up to one year, whereas a felony carries up to six years in prison. Mitigating evidence can usually be considered to avoid a prison sentence and serve time in the county jail. However, depending upon your prior criminal history, whether alcohol was involved, and other aggravating circumstances, the prosecutor may argue for state prison.

Additional aggravating enhancements may apply is plead and proven. For instance, if you left the scene of the accident – i.e., committed a hit and run, then the prosecutor will allege an additional five years to run consecutive to your underlying sentence. Consequently, your maximum exposure could be 11 years in state prison.[2] Another enhancement may apply if you were under the influence of alcohol.

Loss of Your CA Driver’s License

Regardless of the outcome of your court case, the Department of Motor Vehicles will be notified of the fatality. You often receive notice by mail within 12 months of the incident. The DMV will inform you that a hearing has been set to determine whether you were negligent at the time of the fatality. Accordingly, if you lose this hearing, you could lose your driver’s license for life.

Defending CA Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

PC 192(c) carries a number of defenses. Specifically, your conduct did not amount to gross or ordinary negligence. Instead, you drove as a reasonable prudent driver under the circumstances. There could be additional factors when evaluating this defense including – what were the traffic conditions like and was the decedent acting as a reasonable prudent person? – e.g., suddenly running into the street. Furthermore, there could be constitutional technicalities such as the evidence obtained against you was in violation of your Fourth Amendment right or your incriminating statements were unlawfully obtained.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested, charged, or are in the center of a vehicular manslaughter investigation under PC 192(c), contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free consultation. An experienced Newport Beach criminal defense attorney can provide you with insight about the process, how the police and prosecutors are putting together their case, and outline a strategy for mounting your defense. Retaining a lawyer early could mean the difference of severe penalties or having the case rejected altogether and never reaching the inside of a courtroom.

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Legal References:

[1] (c) Vehicular—

(1) Except as provided in subdivision (a) of Section 191.5, driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence; or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.

(2) Driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence; or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.

(3) Driving a vehicle in connection with a violation of paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) of Section 550, where the vehicular collision or vehicular accident was knowingly caused for financial gain and proximately resulted in the death of any person. This paragraph does not prevent prosecution of a defendant for the crime of murder.

(d) This section shall not be construed as making any homicide in the driving of a vehicle punishable that is not a proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, or of the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner.

(e) “Gross negligence,” as used in this section, does not prohibit or preclude a charge of murder under Section 188 upon facts exhibiting wantonness and a conscious disregard for life to support a finding of implied malice, or upon facts showing malice, consistent with the holding of the California Supreme Court in People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290.

(f) (1) For purposes of determining sudden quarrel or heat of passion pursuant to subdivision (a), the provocation was not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant, or if the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship. Nothing in this section shall preclude the jury from considering all relevant facts to determine whether the defendant was in fact provoked for purposes of establishing subjective provocation.

(2) For purposes of this subdivision, “gender” includes a person’s gender identity and gender-related appearance and behavior regardless of whether that appearance or behavior is associated with the person’s gender as determined at birth.

[2] (c) A person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of Section 191.5 of, or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 192 of the Penal Code, upon conviction of any of those sections, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state prison. This additional term shall not be imposed unless the allegation is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact. The court shall not strike a finding that brings a person within the provisions of this subdivision or an allegation made pursuant to this subdivision.

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