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Supporting Victims’ Families: The Human Side of DUI Homicide Defense in Los Angeles County

By September 23, 2023May 19th, 2024No Comments
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Those who drink too much at a party and decide to drive while intoxicated do not picture themselves navigating the chaotic aftermath of a car accident. Consuming too much alcohol impairs the brain and body in many ways, such as clouding the person’s ability to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, one mistake can derail your life in an instant. If California prosecutors are charging you with DUI homicide or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, you should seek reliable and effective legal representation right away. When a DUI collision causes a fatality, the penalties are severe and lasting. Those facing these types of criminal charges often feel overwhelmed and frightened, as the potential penalties may limit their freedom and alter their life in significant ways. As you look for a knowledgeable and trusted Los Angeles County criminal defense lawyer to represent you, it’s worth finding a legal professional who approaches this complex and devastating event with the sensitivity and nuance it requires. It’s best to work with a DUI homicide defense attorney who will advocate for your best interests and defend your legal rights while showing compassion to the victim’s family during this challenging time. This post will explore how working with an empathetic criminal defense attorney can empower you to move through every step of the criminal justice process with greater clarity and confidence, no matter what the future may hold.

Understanding DUI Homicide Charges in California

First, it’s helpful to understand how California law handles DUI crimes that involve a fatality. Most instances where an intoxicated driver causes a collision that leads to the death of another person are charged as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Penal Code Section 191.5(a) defines this crime as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.” Essentially, prosecutors must prove that a driver whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeded the legal limit (0.08 percent or greater) committed an unlawful act, and these factors caused the death of another person. For example, an intoxicated driver who exceeded the speed limit by 30 miles per hour crashes into another car and kills a passenger. It’s important to recognize that the defendant does not have “malice aforethought” in these instances.

What About DUI Murder Charges in Los Angeles County?

While most DUI crimes that involve a fatality are prosecuted as gross vehicular manslaughter, there are instances in which prosecutors may elevate the charges to DUI homicide. However, this serious criminal charge usually only applies to defendants who have previous DUI convictions on their records and who have been warned by the court or DUI school that future DUIs could become murder charges. Both gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI homicide are considered felony offenses, meaning they carry severe and lasting consequences. If convicted, you could face several years in California state prison, steep fines, and other restrictions on your freedom and future. Those convicted of DUI murder may even face life imprisonment. Due to the serious nature of these charges, it’s essential to contact a skilled and experienced Los Angeles County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the specifics of your case.

Defense Strategies Against DUI Homicide Charges

As soon as you enlist the help of an experienced DUI defense lawyer, this legal advocate will get to work. They will assess every detail of your case to identify the most strategic path forward. Let’s take a look at some potential legal defenses to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charges that you and your attorney may use to secure the best possible outcome, given the specifics of your case. Fundamentally, you had to have caused the fatality while driving under the influence. If another party is the cause of the collision, that is a defense to the charge.

You Were Not Intoxicated Behind the Wheel

You may attempt to show that you were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the event by attacking or undermining the evidence prosecutors are using to prove your intoxication. For instance, you can challenge the validity of your blood or breath test results, or you may question the procedures that law enforcement officers used when arresting you to show that your legal rights were violated in some way.

You Were Reacting to a Sudden Emergency

California law states that a defendant is only required to use the same care and judgment in an emergency that an ordinarily careful person would exhibit in the same scenario. For example, if you had too much to drink and were traveling home when one of your headlights stopped working, you may worry about poor visibility and travel below the speed limit out of an abundance of caution. In this case, if your slow speed causes another driver to collide with your vehicle (resulting in the death of the other car’s passenger), you and your attorney can argue that your behavior does not constitute gross negligence.

Defending Your Rights While Showing Compassion and Respect

Criminal cases involving the loss of someone’s life are among the most challenging and delicate to navigate. As the defendant, you want to trust that your attorney will advocate passionately for your best interests. However, it’s essential that the defense lawyer shows respect and compassion for the victim’s family, even as they try to keep their client’s future as bright as possible. The trusted criminal defense attorneys at Wegman & Levin understand the subtle craft of defending their clients while treating the family of the victim with care. We encourage you to call our office today to learn more about how we can help you pursue your desired outcome.

If you or a loved one is facing DUI homicide or vehicular manslaughter charges in Los Angeles County, call Wegman & Levin immediately at (818) 980-4000 to arrange a free consultation with a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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