When A Car Accident Becomes a Crime

When most people think of a car accident, criminal charges typically do not come to mind. However, there are circumstances in which the State of California may impose criminal charges on a driver for a car accident. Learning when a car accident becomes a crime can help you determine the charges you may be facing, and what your next steps should be.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Under California law, if a driver kills or permanently injures another person due to their recklessness, illegal activity, or complete disregard for another’s safety, it may be possible for the state to file criminal charges. The California Penal Code has three categories of vehicular manslaughter as follows:

  • A driver drives with gross negligence while either committing a misdemeanor offense or while driving in such a way that might kill someone (Penal Code 192(c)(1))
  • A driver drives with ordinary negligence while committing a misdemeanor offense or while driving in such a way that might kill someone (Penal Code 192(c)(2))
  • A driver intentionally causes an accident for financial gain (Penal Code 192(c)(3))

Vehicular manslaughter can be either a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Gross Negligence

Driving with gross negligence can lead to either misdemeanor or felony charges. Gross negligence occurs when a driver acts far outside the normal bounds of responsible driving. Texting while driving and swerving in between lanes, speeding down a two-lane road with limited control of a car, or passing multiple cars at once could all be considered grossly negligent driving. Some other examples of gross negligence include the following:

  • Driving excessively fast for the roadway or conditions present
  • Swerving in and out of traffic
  • Illegally passing another vehicle
  • Intentionally running stop signs or red lights

Reckless Driving

If you are charged with reckless driving, it means that there was willful and wanton disregard for safety, making the chances of an accident likely. There are no exact guidelines to determine reckless driving, and most of the decisions to charge an individual with reckless driving are based on the facts and totality of the circumstances of the incident or accident. Some considerations may include where the accident occurred, who was near the accident, the weather conditions, whether there was construction on the roadway, if the accident was near a school zone, or if there were extenuating circumstances at the time, such as an emergency.

Other Criminal Offenses

Other criminal offenses that a driver can be charged with include driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not obeying law enforcement and not pulling over when signaled to do, so or leaving the scene of an accident.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you were arrested and charged with a criminal charge for your driving related to a car accident, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to help you understand your rights, build a strong defense strategy, and represent you in court. Contact the Law Office of Daniel H. Rose at 415-946-8900 for your free consultation.