In general, the vehicular manslaughter includes some level of negligence (ordinary or gross) which has been demonstrated by the offender.
In practice, the gross vehicular manslaughter is considered to be as one of the most serious crimes because the offender knew that his/her actions were dangerous and could have resulted in manslaughter. Moreover, the vehicular manslaughter is much more dangerous for the society if the offender has a “prior” DUI conviction. There are some factors which make the guilt of the offender more aggravating such speed exceeding, using the phone during driving etc.
The vehicular manslaughter may be either a felony or a misdemeanor, that is to say it is a “wobbler”. The incrimination depends on the criminal history of the person as well as objective circumstances of the offense. Nonetheless, if the prosecutor establishes the presence of the gross negligence, the offence will be charged as a felony. It has to be noted that California’s Penal Code states the gross negligence as a situation “when an individual is considered to have been driving without caution and/or concern for the safety of others.”
It should be noted that the court has become more severe towards DUI accidents. Actually, taking into consideration that a person knew of inherently dangerous nature of driving under the influence, and having the conscious knowledge of the possible results of his/her acts preferred to disregard it, the court expanded the scope of the murder crimes. For example, if the driver took DUI classes, or renewed the driver’s license, as a part of the curriculum he/she had to be prevented about the possible outcomes of the further driving under the influence. Under these circumstances in the judicial practice, the offender can be charged with a murder.
According to California’s Penal Code(191.5), gross vehicular manslaughter is punished by up to ten years in the state prison. Moreover, pursuant to Courtney’s Law, If the defendant has prior DUI convictions, the convicted can face sentencing up to 15 years in a state prison, or even life sentence.
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