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Penal Code 191.5(b) PC | Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated

Penal Code 191.5(b) PC – Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a serious criminal offense in California that involves causing the death of another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Specifically, it falls under California Penal Code 191.5(b) and is known as vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence.

This charge comes with some hefty penalties and consequences that can completely change your life. That’s why it’s so important to understand exactly what it means, how you can be charged, possible defenses, and what to do if you find yourself facing charges.

What Does 191.5(b) PC Mean?

Let’s break down the key parts of this law:

  • Vehicular manslaughter – Causing the death of a person with a vehicle
  • While intoxicated – Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Ordinary negligence – Failing to use reasonable care that an ordinary person would use in the same situation

So in simple terms, 191.5(b) PC means causing someone’s death with your vehicle while you were driving under the influence and failed to use reasonable care. It’s essentially a DUI that turned fatal due to your negligent actions.

How Can I Be Charged?

For you to face charges under 191.5(b) PC, the prosecution must prove these key elements:

  • You were driving while intoxicated – your BAC was 0.08% or higher or you were under the influence of drugs
  • While driving under the influence, you committed an unlawful act or failed to perform a lawful act (like running a red light or stop sign, speeding, etc.)
  • You committed this act with ordinary negligence – you failed to use reasonable care and your actions are what a reasonable person would consider negligent
  • Your negligent actions while driving under the influence caused the death of another person

Some examples of how you could be charged include:

  • Causing an accident while texting and driving with a BAC of 0.10% that results in a fatality
  • Speeding through an intersection while under the influence of marijuana and hitting another car, killing the driver
  • Rear-ending another vehicle at high speed because you were distracted and drunk, causing the other driver to die

How is This Different From Gross Vehicular Manslaughter 191.5(a) PC?

There are two types of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charges in California – (a) and (b). The main difference is the level of negligence involved:

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  • Gross negligence (191.5(a) PC) – Your actions showed a reckless disregard for human life and created a high risk of death or serious injury. Basically you were driving in an extremely dangerous and reckless manner.
  • Ordinary negligence (191.5(b) PC) – You failed to use reasonable care and your actions would be considered negligent by a reasonable person. Your driving was careless but not to the extreme level of gross negligence.

Gross vehicular manslaughter is charged as a felony with more severe punishments, while ordinary vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

What Are the Penalties If Convicted?

Since vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under 191.5(b) PC is a wobbler offense, it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. This gives the prosecution some discretion on how to charge you based on the circumstances of the case.

If charged as misdemeanor, possible penalties include:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Probation
  • Restitution to the victim’s family
  • Suspension of your driver’s license

If charged as a felony, potential penalties increase to:

  • 16 months, 2 years or 4 years in state prison
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Restitution to the victim’s family
  • Up to 6 additional years if other victims suffered serious injuries

These penalties are in addition to any imposed for the DUI charges as well. And a conviction will stay on your criminal record permanently.

What Are Some Possible Defenses?

While the penalties for 191.5(b) PC are severe, the prosecution must still prove their case against you. There are several defenses an experienced DUI lawyer may use to fight the charges, such as:

  • You were not actually impaired – Challenge the evidence and tests that show you were over the legal BAC limit or under the influence of drugs. Question the accuracy of breathalyzers and blood tests.
  • No negligence – Argue that your driving did not meet the criteria for negligence, and you exercised reasonable care in your actions.
  • Not the cause – Make the case that your actions did not actually cause the accident and death. For example, the other driver ran a red light and struck your vehicle.
  • Lack of intent – Vehicular manslaughter is unique in that it does not require intent or malice. You did not intend for the accident to happen.

An experienced DUI defense lawyer can assess the evidence against you and determine the best defense strategy for your specific case.

What Should I Do if Charged with 191.5(b) PC?

Being charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is extremely serious and can completely devastate your life. Here are some steps to take immediately:

  • Remain silent – Do not admit guilt or make statements to the police without an attorney present. What you say can be used against you.
  • Hire an attorney – An experienced DUI defense lawyer can protect your rights, build defenses on your behalf, and negotiate reduced charges or sentences if appropriate.
  • Seek counseling – The emotional trauma of being involved in a fatal DUI accident can be overwhelming. Seek support from professionals, friends and family.
  • Avoid social media – Do not post anything regarding the incident online, as it may be used against you.

Facing criminal charges of any kind can be scary and confusing. But with the help of an attorney who understands DUI law and vehicular manslaughter charges, you can build the strongest case possible. Don’t leave your fate up to chance – take action today.

 

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