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Vehicular Manslaughter

California Penal Code section 191.5 (b) defines “vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated”. This crime is charged when you are DUI and you additionally commit a negligent act that causes the death of another. Negligent vehicular manslaughter is a “wobbler” which means that it may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on (1) the facts of your specific offense, and (2) on your criminal history, particularly with respect to your prior DUI history.

"Negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated", under 191.5 (b) PC is distinguished from "gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated" under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) by the level of culpability that is necessary to prove each offense. Negligent vehicular manslaughter while DUI only requires that you acted with “ordinary” negligence.

  • What is “Ordinary” Negligence?

Ordinary negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to oneself or another. You are negligent if you (1) do something that a “reasonably” careful person wouldn’t have done in the same situation, or (2) don’t do something that a “reasonably” careful person would have done in the same situation.
Examples of ordinary negligence may include (but are not limited to):

  • Speeding,
  • Texting while driving, and
  • Failing to turn your headlights on in the dark.

California courts have even held that failing to wear your seatbelt or failing to ensure that all of your passengers are wearing seatbelts will constitute ordinary negligence. This would be the case in the event that you or your passengers were ejected from the seat and subsequently died or killed another.

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