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What is the Average Jail Sentence for DUI Manslaughter in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 09, 2016 | 0 Comments

If you accidentally kill someone while you are DUI in California, you are probably bracing yourself for a long jail sentence.

But in fact California laws on "vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated" (DUI manslaughter) provide for a wide range of potential sentences depending on the circumstances of the case. Every case is different, so it's almost impossible to come up with an "average" jail sentence that is relevant to your case.

The key question is whether you are being charged with Penal Code 191.5(a) PC gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or Penal Code 191.5(b) PC vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

PC 191.5(a) gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is charged when the prosecutor believes the defendant was acting with gross negligence at the time of the accident. This means that s/he was acting with reckless disregard for human life--perhaps by driving way over the speed limit, running red lights or stop signs, driving on the wrong side of the road, etc. 

The potential jail sentence for DUI manslaughter with gross negligence is four (4), six (6) or ten (10) years.

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated under PC 191.5(b), without gross negligence, is a different story. This offense can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, at the prosecutor's discretion.

The potential felony sentence is sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or four (4) years. And if it is charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum jail sentence is only one (1) year.

So, as you can see, the potential consequences of a vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated conviction varies enormously depending on how you were alleged to have been driving at the time of the accident. And note that the prosecutor has to be able to prove that you were driving negligently in some way in addition to being DUI.

This is why it is important to hire a top-notch California DUI defense attorney with experience in accident reconstruction. His or her work and skills can be the difference between 1 year in jail and 10!

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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