Overview of § 191.5(b) PC

California Penal Code § 191.5(b) PC defines vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated as the act of causing the death of another individual due to driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and committing an act of negligence. This statute specifically addresses instances where the following criteria are met:

  • Intoxication: The driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Negligence: The driver committed a negligent act that was not a felony but likely to cause death.
  • Resulting Death: The act of negligence directly led to another person’s death.

Distinction Between Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated and Other Forms

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, covered under § 191.5(a), is distinguished from the § 191.5(b) offense by the severity of the negligence involved. Key differences include:

  • Severity of Negligence: Gross vehicular manslaughter involves gross negligence, which indicates a reckless disregard for human life, whereas § 191.5(b) involves ordinary negligence, which is a lesser degree of carelessness.
  • Legal Consequences: Convictions under § 191.5(a) typically result in harsher penalties due to the elevated risk and disregard displayed in gross negligence cases.

Key Aspects to Note:

  • Penalties: Those convicted under § 191.5(a) can face longer prison terms and higher fines compared to those under § 191.5(b).
  • Burden of Proof: Prosecutors must prove a higher degree of recklessness in gross negligence cases, which can be more challenging than demonstrating ordinary negligence.

These distinctions are critical for legal professionals when advising clients or forming defense strategies, as they significantly affect case handling and potential outcomes.





    Legal Consequences of a Conviction Under § 191.5(b) PC

    Sentencing Guidelines and Statutory Penalties

    Upon conviction under California Penal Code § 191.5(b) for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the legal consequences can be severe, including:

    • Imprisonment: Sentences can range from 16 months to 4 years in state prison.
    • Fines: Monetary fines can reach up to $10,000.
    • Probation: Court-ordered probation may include specific conditions such as DUI school, community service, or other court-mandated programs.

    Impact of Conviction on Criminal Record and Future Opportunities

    A conviction under § 191.5(b) has significant long-term effects, including:

    • Criminal Record: A felony conviction can have lasting impacts, including difficulty in clearing the record.
    • Employment Challenges: Convicts often face hurdles in securing employment, especially in jobs that require driving or high security clearance.
    • Professional Licenses: Those in professions requiring licenses may face suspensions or revocations.
    • Social and Civic Consequences: Convictions can lead to lost voting rights while incarcerated and possible public stigma.

    Critical Elements Prosecutors Must Establish

    Proving Intoxication at the Time of the Incident

    For a successful prosecution under § 191.5(b), the following must be proven:

    • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC): Evidence of BAC at or above the legal limit (0.08% for most drivers, lower for commercial drivers and minors) at the time of the incident.
    • Signs of Impairment: Testimony or video evidence showing signs of impairment such as slurred speech, erratic driving, or failed field sobriety tests.

    Proving intoxication requires precise and timely collected evidence to meet the legal standards of proof.

    Establishing Negligence Leading to Fatal Outcomes

    Prosecutors must also establish that the defendant’s negligent behavior led to the fatal outcome:

    • Direct Causation: Demonstrating a direct link between the driver’s intoxication and the accident that caused death.
    • Negligent Actions: Showing that the behavior was not only illegal due to intoxication but also negligent, such as violating traffic laws or engaging in risky driving behaviors.

    Each of these elements requires substantial evidence and legal arguments, making the prosecutor’s case reliant on thorough investigation and clear presentation of facts.

    Defense Strategies for Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated Charges

    Challenging Evidence of Intoxication

    Defense attorneys often challenge the validity, accuracy, or legality of the intoxication evidence presented by the prosecution, such as:

    • Breathalyzer or Blood Test Errors: Pointing out calibration errors or improper handling procedures.
    • Violation of Rights: Highlighting any procedural errors, such as failure to properly administer field sobriety tests or Miranda rights violations.
    • Medical Conditions: Arguing that medical conditions might have skewed the BAC readings or mimicked signs of intoxication.

    These challenges can cast doubt on the reliability of the evidence suggesting intoxication.

    Arguing Lack of Negligence or Causation

    A key defense strategy involves disputing the negligence or direct causation aspects of the charge:

    • Disputing Negligence: Demonstrating that the defendant’s actions did not deviate significantly from what might be expected under the circumstances.
    • Breaking the Causation Link: Arguing that other factors, such as road conditions or actions of another driver, were the true causes of the incident.

    These arguments are critical in undermining the prosecution’s claims that the defendant’s intoxicated state directly led to the fatal outcome.

    Presenting Mitigating Factors and Circumstances

    Defense may also present mitigating factors to reduce potential penalties or to gain acquittal:

    • First-Time Offense: Showing that the defendant has no prior DUI or criminal history.
    • Remorse and Rehabilitation: Demonstrating the defendant’s remorse and proactive engagement in rehabilitation programs.
    • Unusual Circumstances: Presenting any unique circumstances that contributed to the event, which might explain but not excuse the behavior.

    These factors can influence the severity of the sentencing or even the charge itself.

    The Role of Legal Expertise in Managing Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

    Importance of Hiring a Defense Attorney with Specific Experience

    Hiring a defense attorney with specific experience in handling vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated cases is crucial:

    • Specialized Knowledge: Experienced attorneys are familiar with the nuances of DUI and manslaughter law.
    • Navigating Complexities: They can navigate complex procedural and evidentiary issues that typically arise in these cases.

    An experienced attorney ensures that all possible defense avenues are explored and leveraged effectively.

    How Effective Legal Representation Influences Case Outcomes

    The impact of effective legal representation can be significant in vehicular manslaughter cases:

    • Case Dismissals or Reductions: Skilled lawyers may secure case dismissals or charge reductions through rigorous defense strategies.
    • Negotiating Plea Deals: They are often able to negotiate favorable plea deals that reduce penalties or alter charges.
    • Trial Preparation and Execution: Proficient attorneys prepare thoroughly for trial, anticipating prosecution tactics and countering them effectively.

    Contact a Los Angeles Vehicular Manslaughter Defense Attorney

    Los Angeles Criminal LawyerIf you or someone you know is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, consulting a defense attorney experienced in California DUI and manslaughter law is essential. Attorney Arash Hashemi, with over two decades of criminal defense experience, employs strategic tactics tailored to safeguard your rights and secure the best possible outcome.

    Our office, located in the Westside Towers of Los Angeles, extends its services to clients in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Westwood. We are conveniently accessible from the Expo/Bundy Station. We prioritize accessibility and flexibility, offering weekend appointments and jail visits to thoroughly discuss your case.

    For specialized assistance with voluntary manslaughter charges and to strategize a robust defense, please reach out to our office at (310) 448-1529 or schedule a consultation. At The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, we are committed to your defense, ensuring you are fully informed of your legal options every step of the way.





      11845 W Olympic Blvd #520, Los Angeles, CA 90064

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      Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is not intended to predict outcomes, as individual circumstances vary and laws may change over time. Those seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified attorney to understand how current laws apply to their specific situation. For detailed legal guidance on the topics discussed, please contact our law firm directly.