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Car accidents happen every day, but you could face criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter if someone dies in the crash. Such a tragedy can trigger a tidal wave of emotions – grief, sadness, even guilt – but feeling sorry about the situation does not necessarily mean that you are legally responsible and deserve punishment.

Speak with an Oakland vehicular manslaughter lawyer experienced with vehicular manslaughter cases to get the guidance you need and plan your defense. Our skilled defense lawyers could be a valuable asset in these cases.

When is an Accident Considered Vehicular Manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter occurs when someone’s unlawful or negligent conduct behind the wheel causes someone else’s death. California Penal Code § 192(c) explains that there are different levels of vehicular manslaughter in Oakland depending on whether the driver acted with gross or ordinary negligence. A person also violates § 192(c)(3) if they intentionally cause a crash to profit by collecting insurance money.

When a driver’s conduct involves illegal activity, the crime committed usually must be either an infraction or misdemeanor, generally not a felony. If the offense is serious, it may rise to a felony, depending on the facts.

If the accident occurred during the commission of an unrelated felony, the defendant could be charges with a particular type of murder charge called felony murder if someone dies. Authorities may choose to increase the charge to homicide under the felony-murder rule found at Cal. Penal Code §§ 187 through 189. Drivers under the influence of intoxicating substances at the time of a crash may also find themselves indicted under Cal. Penal Code § 191.5 for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Ordinary Vs Gross Negligence

By accepting a California driver’s license, individuals take on certain responsibilities concerning fellow drivers, pedestrians, and others on the road. When a person fails to act responsibly, and fails these duties, the law may identify their actions as ordinary or gross negligence, with gross negligence involving more reckless behavior.

A person’s actions fall into the ordinary negligence category when they fail to use reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to others. Examples of ordinary negligence may include:

  • Forgetting to check before changing lanes
  • Failing to look for pedestrians before turning right at a traffic signal

Behavior rises to the level of gross negligence when a person acts with “wanton disregard” for the safety of others, despite knowing that their conduct creates a high degree of risk. Actions resulting in gross negligence vehicular manslaughter might include:

  • Racing on the highway
  • Veering into oncoming traffic to pass other cars on a two-lane road
  • Running a red light

The punishment for grossly negligent vehicular manslaughter is much more severe than for ordinary negligence charges. Oakland criminal defense lawyers understand the importance of this distinction and may help defendants apply the facts to minimize or even avoid harsh penalties for vehicular manslaughter.

Penalties for a Vehicular Manslaughter Conviction in Oakland

Whether authorities charge a driver with misdemeanor or felony depends on their assessment of the degree of negligence. Ordinary negligence is a misdemeanor offense, but gross negligence is known as a “wobbler offense”, which means the prosecutor has the discretion to charge the defendant with either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor convictions result in sentences of up to one year in jail, maximum fines of $1,000, or both under Cal. Penal Code §§ 19 and 672. Felonies are punishable under Cal. Penal Code §§ 17 and 672 by fines up to $10,000, prison terms not to exceed six years, or both. Probation is also an option at the judge’s discretion. Whether convicted of either misdemeanor or felony vehicular manslaughter, California Vehicular Code § 13351(a)(1) requires the immediate suspension of that person’s driver’s license for three years.

Serious consequences arise from vehicular manslaughter charges, so it may be in the accused’s best interest to work with a trained Oakland criminal defense lawyer.

Seek Guidance from an Oakland Vehicular Manslaughter Lawyer

Fatal car accidents upend your world in so many ways and facing charges for vehicular manslaughter exacerbates the situation. An Oakland vehicular manslaughter lawyer could help you avoid serious penalties. Reach out to our team of experienced litigators for the support and guidance you need during this trying period of your life.

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The Nieves Law Firm is dedicated to providing aggressive criminal defense representation to working professionals who have found themselves in trouble with the law. We show up to win, and we’re not afraid to fight aggressively to accomplish our client’s goals.

We understand that being accused of a crime can be a scary and confusing experience. That’s why we take the stress off our clients by handling the full scope of their legal situation from the initial consultation to the final outcome. Our bilingual attorneys and staff are here to ensure that our clients feel heard and understood every step of the way.

As one of the largest criminal defense teams in Oakland and the Greater Bay Area, we have the resources and experience to handle even the most complex cases. Our experienced team examines various aspects of your case and, perhaps most importantly, we genuinely care about our clients and their future. We take the time to learn about their goals and priorities so that we can achieve an outcome that allows them to move past their mistakes and focus on the future they want. When you work with us, you become part of our team.

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When facing a criminal charge, having dedicated and experienced attorneys on your side is critical. At The Nieves Law Firm, we understand the gravity of your situation, and our criminal defense attorneys provide unwavering support and legal guidance.

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