California Vehicular Manslaughter

In California, vehicular manslaughter and gross vehicular manslaughter, are defined in Penal Code 192(c) PC


In California, you commit the crime of vehicular manslaughter if ALL of these are true:

1. You are driving a vehicle and you commit a legal act that may cause death, or an act that is illegal but NOT a California felony
2. You were being negligent or “grossly” negligent when you commit that act
3. Someone is killed as a result of your negligent act.


Felonies are left out because they instead qualify for the more serious crime of Penal Code 187 PC murder under the California felony-murder rule.


There is also a separate crime if you commit vehicular manslaughter/gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI. In that case you would be charged for violating Penal Code 191.5 PC, California’s vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated law.



Here are three situations that could lead to charges of violating PC 192(c), California’s vehicular manslaughter/gross vehicular manslaughter law:

1. A man sends a text message with his phone while driving, causing him to hit a pedestrian and kill him
2. A teen is driving above the speed limit on the freeway when he crashes into another car, killing the other driver
3. A man trying to collect an insurance payment deliberately drives into a telephone pole at high speed and accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian.


The penalties for California’s vehicular manslaughter/gross vehicular manslaughter law depend on whether you acted with ordinary negligence or gross negligence. For ordinary negligence the crime is a misdemeanor. If you acted with gross negligence, you will be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter. This offense is a wobbler in California, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The prosecutor gets to decide which way he wants to charge it.

The maximum sentence if charged as a misdemeanor is one year in county jail. As a felony the maximum is six years in prison.

Legal defenses

If you are involved in an auto accident and someone dies, you are no doubt feeling overwhelmed already. To face a criminal charge of vehicular manslaughter on top of that may be a serious ordeal.

No matter how you feel, you have the right and ways to defend yourself to avoid piling criminal penalties on top of it. Some legal defenses available to 192(c) PC charges include:

1. You were suddenly caught in an emergency and acted reasonably under the circumstances.
2. You did not act negligently
3. Even if you were negligent, the negligence was not the cause of the victim’s death

To help you better understand California vehicular manslaughter/gross vehicular manslaughter laws, our California DUI and criminal defense attorneys will address the following:

The Legal Definition of Vehicular Manslaughter
Gross vehicular manslaughter Penal Code 192(c)(1)
Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter Penal Code 192(c)(2)
Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain Penal Code 192(c)(3)
Gross vehicular manslaughter penalties
Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter penalties
Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain penalties
Driver's license suspension
Legal Defenses to Vehicular Manslaughter or Gross Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
Penal Code 191.5 PC vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated / gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
DUI murder/Watson murder

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman.

You may also find helpful information in related articles on Penal Code 187 PC Murder; Legal Definition of a California Felony; Penal Code 191.5 PC California’s Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated Law; The California Felony-Murder Rule; Legal Definition of a California Misdemeanor; Legal Definition of a Wobbler in California Law; California Voluntary Manslaughter Penal Code 192(a) PC; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; Legal Definition of an Infraction in California Law; Involuntary Manslaughter California Penal Code 192(b) PC; Penal Code 548-551 PC California’s Auto Insurance Fraud Laws; The Definition of Great Bodily Injury/Harm; Felony (Formal) Probation in California; Misdemeanor (Summary) Probation in California; Driving “Under the Influence” as Defined in Vehicle Code 23152(a); Driving on a Suspended License Under Vehicle Code 14601 VC; DUI With a BAC of .05 or Higher While Under 21; Driving with a BAC of .08 or Greater Under Vehicle Code 23152(b); and DUI Murder/”Watson” Murder in California.

Call us for help…

If you have questions about Penal Code 192(c) PC vehicular manslaughter/gross vehicular manslaughter, or you would like a free consultation to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, please contact us at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman.

We have local criminal law offices in and around San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, and several nearby cities.

Free Consultation With An Experienced Attorney
Current Clients and Cases:

Worker Compensation Dept:

Our Address:
100 North Euclid Avenue
Second Floor
Upland, CA 91786
Call us today for a free consultation

Request a Free Consultation

  • We will take the time to answer all of your legal questions. Free. No Obligation. No Pressure. Just Answers.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Personal Injury Attorney
Family Law Attorneys