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WHAT IS THE DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER AND SECOND DEGREE MURDER IN LOS ANGELES?
This is an important question, because I am seeing prosecutors file murder cases more and more when it comes to people driving, getting in an accident and a death occurring. When you examine the law related to vehicular manslaughter and you compare it to that of second degree murder (as far as driving offenses go), you see that it can be described as murky at best. It almost seems that if the jury feels you deserve to be convicted of murder for what happened, then they will convict you regardless of what the law says.
My point is, that there is no bright line that defines which driving related offenses are murder and which are vehicular manslaughter. There is obviously a huge difference between the punishments for these offenses. Your best defense is to hire an attorney who has been down this road before and had great success. One who knows the law and can argue it effectively in front of a jury and who can get your story across in such a way that the jury does not believe that you deserve to be convicted of murder and serve fifteen to life in prison.
What are the crucial factors that will determine if your are convicted of murder or manslaughter? The most crucial factor that a jury will be looking at is how egregious your conduct was under the circumstances of your cases. Did you act with wanton disregard for human life with a malignant heart. Or, where you grossly negligent in your actions and not deserving of the most serious punishment. Trying to find the dividing line between gross negligence and wanton disregard for human life is not an easy task and one that should be left to a seasoned defense attorney who has fought these cases and seen how a jury will resolve this issue. Figuring out what a juries thought process will be in any given case and what it will take to convince them that you do not deserve a murder conviction should be left to the trained, battle tested professional.
Some of the factors that will be considered in determining whether a person should be prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter versus murder relate to whether the charged person was using alcohol or drugs when they were involved in the criminal conduct. The most common case that I see being prosecuted as a murder charged is the scenario where someone drinks alcohol, drives their car and ends up in an accident where a death occurs. In this situation, the jury will be deciding whether the person know or should have know that it is dangerous to human life to drink and drive. This is why in all DUI cases, judges across Los Angeles county are giving defendants a “Watson Advisement”. This basically means that they are specifically telling them that it is dangerous to human life to drink alcohol and drive and if they do so in the future and a death occurs, the prosecutor can charge them with second degree murder. If someone took a prescription medication that did not know would effect them in a negative manner, they would have a much stronger argument that they should not be charged with murder, because they could not have foreseen the bad result.
Another scenario that I have recently seen is those people who have a history of speeding and driving reckless becoming involved in a death related accident and them being charged with murder. This is occurring more and more frequently in Los Angeles courthouses. This is true even when there is not drugs or alcohol involved. The key thing in these case the prosecutors have to prove is that the charged person should have known that their actions, prior to the accident, where reasonably likely to cause a death and they in fact did. This is a scary proposition for most people. When we get in our car, we never intend to hurt anyone. And, any client that I have ever defended who is charged with a murder case because of a driving related accident, tells me they never meant to hurt anyone and that they feel terrible about the end result.
Unfortunately, the police and prosecutors are now looking at the fact that someone died and they have a family who wants justice for what happened. And, they are not going to let people get away with reckless or dangerous behaviors or hide behind the fact that they were high on drugs, alcohol or the thrill of going fast in their car. There has been a huge shift in society as it related to holding people accountable for their actions and the result of their actions.
If you find yourself staring at a murder conviction, it is time to stand up for yourself and find an attorney that has the know how and experience to fight for you, your family and your way of life. All the marbles are on the line and there is not time for hesitation.
Vehicular manslaughter is a serious charge and our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can help if you are facing such charges. We will answer all your questions and discuss all your options with you.
When you cause death of another person while driving recklessly or negligently, that is defined as vehicular manslaughter. If you are driving under the influence and cause death of another person, this is defined as a DUI vehicular manslaughter which is charged as a felony. Vehicular manslaughter carries penalties as severe as 4 years and up 10 years in prison.
Gross vehicular manslaughter is one of the most serious charges someone with a DUI can face. The judge can impose a 10 year prison sentence for each person killed. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was driving under the influence and had a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher and that the person committed an infraction or misdemeanor while driving under the influence with gross negligence that caused the death of another person. Gross negligence is defined as acting in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury and a reasonable person would know that acting in such a way creates that risk.
We will do everything we can to contest all and any evidence presented against you. We will assert all and any defenses that are applicable to you. We will persistently fight for you.
By working with an experienced and aggressive DUI attorney, you may have options less severe. We are here to fight for you and to be your advocate. If we can show that the accident may not have been your fault or that you were not intoxicated above the legal limit, we may get your charges reduced. Our duty to you as our client is to do everything we possibly can to get you favorable results.
Our DUI manslaughter attorneys are available for you immediately.
RESULT IN SAN FERNANDO COURTHOUSE SECOND DEGREE MURDER CHARGE – NOT GUILTY
Client charged with murder after threatening to kill her significant other and chasing her through a red light, causing a serious accident and death. Speeds during the chase reached over 100 miles per hour and an off duty firefighter was seriously injured during the accident. We were willing to accept a vehicular manslaughter charge, but the District Attorney’s Office wanted a conviction for second degree murder. After a week long trial, the jury came back not guilty for the murder charge. The prosecution was unable to prove that my client’s conduct was so wanton and dangerous as to justify and sustain a conviction for murder. One of the most crucial arguments that convinced the jury not to find my client guilty of the murder charge was because she had made the decision not to go through the red light which ended up causing the accident. Further, my client was young and had be tricked and manipulated by the alleged victim. In order to win these type of cases, the defense must be fully prepared and make the right arguments at the right time.
This has given my very young client a second chance at life and an opportunity to avoid a life time in prison. The problem with having too much power, is that sometimes the prosecutors misuse their power to try and send people for long prison sentences who do not deserve it. When push comes to shove, the only thing standing between someone charged with murder and prison for the rest of their life, is their criminal defense attorney.
VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER CHARGED IN BURBANK COURTHOUSE – CLIENT FOUND NOT GUILTY BY THE JURY
In this case the alleged victim was driving on the freeway and lost all power to his car. The car stopped on the freeway in the slow lane and him and his sister remained in the car. My client was driving in the same lane and ended up hitting the car causing the death of the driver. The sister lived and was one of the witnesses in the trial. After a vigorous defense we were able to establish that my client was traveling at the speed limit, that the section of the freeway where the accident occurred was very dark and that my client had not alcohol or any other controlled substance in his system.
In my opinion, the key thing that won the case for us was our accident reconstruction expert. The prosecutors used a boring professor as their expert and we used a straight forward right to the point guy that made sense. After the trial the jury said that our expert was simply more believable than the prosecutor’s and that I convinced them that my client did not do anything wrong and this type of situation could have happened to anyone that was driving in that lane at the wrong time. The not guilty verdict in a jurisdiction like Burbank was a huge success story for my client and his family.