On Tuesday, the trial began for a woman facing manslaughter and gross negligence charges following a 2011 freeway crash that claimed the life of a college student. The rear-end accident occurred on the 405 freeway in Westminster.
The prosecution is alleging that the defendant, a 31-year-old woman, was so distracted that she failed to notice stopped traffic on the freeway. According to the prosecuting attorney, the defendant was driving more than 85 miles an hour at the time of the incident and failed to apply the brakes on her Prius, slamming into the victim's Hyundai. The victim's vehicle then collided with the vehicle in front of her and spun around, coming to a rest facing the opposite direction. The victim, a 23-year-old student and star pitcher at San Jose State University, ultimately died from her injuries.
The defendant pled not guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. There are two sides to this story; according to the defense, the defendant was driving with the flow of traffic when the victim swerved in front of the defendant's vehicle. The defense has also alleged that the victim either did not apply the brakes or that the brake lights were not working, as the defendant did not see any brake lights prior to the collision.
The trial is currently underway, and the defendant faces six years in prison if convicted of this felony offense.
When can an auto accident result in vehicular manslaughter charges?
The case discussed above serves as an example of when a serious auto accident can leave a driver facing criminal charges. Accidents do happen, even when we are cautious and responsible drivers. Circumstances beyond our control may result in catastrophic collisions that leave one or more people injured. But when may a driver face vehicular manslaughter charges after an accident? What factors come into play?
The criminal charge of vehicular manslaughter, when not involving drugs or alcohol, is covered in California Penal Code § 192. If a driver is accused of speeding, reckless driving, driving into a crosswalk and violating a pedestrian's right of way, texting or talking on a handheld cellphone, he or she may face vehicular manslaughter charges.
This offense may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. If charged as a misdemeanor, a defendant may face up to one year in county jail. If charged as a felony, a defendant may face anywhere from 2 to 10 years in state prison.
The driver in the case above has found herself facing vehicular manslaughter charges involving gross negligence because the prosecution has alleged that she was distracted at the time of the accident. At this time, it is unclear what distraction the prosecution will claim was the reason behind the accident, though it is possible it may be texting or a similar traffic violation.
In this situation and in any case, where a defendant is facing felony charges, it is of the utmost importance to seek immediate legal counsel. If you were accused of causing an auto accident that claimed another person's life, you are probably already dealing with the emotional consequences of the incident. Adding the possibility of imprisonment can make your situation seem helpless, but you have rights.
Exercise your right to legal counsel and involve a criminal defense attorney who can tell your side of the story. The prosecution may fight hard to try to secure a conviction, using all resources at their disposal. Make sure you have legal representation of your own to present a compelling case on your behalf. At the Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman, we represent arrestees and defendants throughout Orange County, California in the face of felony and misdemeanor charges or accusations. To learn more about our firm and the services we can provide to help you, call today.