Are you facing vehicular manslaughter charges in Los Angeles? If so, you must understand how serious a conviction truly is. Due to the long-term consequences of vehicular manslaughter, you need a law firm on your side from the very start.
Even if things look hopeless, you must still fight back. A Los Angeles vehicular manslaughter lawyer can build a solid defense against these serious charges.
Former Prosecutor That Works For YOU
The experienced Los Angeles vehicular manslaughter lawyers at Chudnovsky Law are here to help you. We work hard to protect our clients’ legal rights and prevent improper convictions.
Our law firm includes former prosecutors and top defense lawyers that have handled thousands of DUI and vehicular manslaughter cases in Los Angeles, and we have helped individuals just like you beat these charges and move forward into the future.
Our lawyers regularly appear in the local criminal court, where the state handles serious DUI and criminal charges like these. We know the prosecutors and have experience negotiating fair plea agreements with them. We know how to handle administrative matters with the Clerk’s office and courtroom judicial clerks. We have appeared before dozens of local judges, familiar with their judicial styles.
This familiarity allows us to fight effectively when litigating criminal cases in the local courts of L.A.
The stakes are high after vehicular manslaughter. You need Chudnovsky Law fighting for you every step of the way.
We offer affordable fees and flexible payment plans.
What is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Section 192(c) of the California Penal Code defines vehicular manslaughter. The state makes this charge when a defendant causes the death of another person while driving. Vehicular manslaughter can be a misdemeanor, and in that case, it carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in the county jail.
When charged as a felony, it carries a potential sentence of up to six years in the state prison system. This sentence can be extended to ten years if the driver was intoxicated.
If the defendant has two prior DUI convictions, the state can further enhance the penalty to fifteen years. The offense also counts as a strike under California's Three Strikes law. A third strike essentially turns the vehicular manslaughter conviction into a life sentence. These increased penalties are why you need a defense lawyer's advice at every criminal investigation stage.
What Is Vehicular Assault?
Section 245(a)(1) of the California Penal Code defines the crime of assault with a deadly weapon. A deadly weapon can be a vehicle, and this offense is known as vehicular assault. The state charges this offense against defendants who cause severe injuries to others while driving.
When the defendant allegedly used a dangerous instrument, they aggravate the assault. This enhancement of the offense means the state punishes aggravated assault charges more severely than simple assault charges (which are often misdemeanors). In vehicular assaults, defendants in California can receive a sentence of four years in the state prison system.
The Criminal Case Process
Going to court for any matter is overwhelming, but when you face serious assault or manslaughter charges, the experience can be terrifying. You don’t have to face the process alone. Our experienced defense lawyers will be with you every step of the way. We will also help prepare you for what to expect in court, so the process will be less overwhelming once you get there. Here is how a criminal case proceeds through the court system:
A Criminal Investigation by Law Enforcement
A criminal case begins with an investigation by a law enforcement agency. In the case of a vehicular assault or manslaughter case, the investigation will usually be performed by the highway patrol or by a local police agency that has jurisdiction over the road where the accident occurred. The investigation usually occurs as soon as the accident happens. Time is of the essence when officers need to clear a road to ease traffic congestion.
In some cases, however, the investigation may continue for weeks while investigators interview witnesses or wait for toxicology reports. If this is the case, you still want to hire a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. The police investigation can place your constitutional rights in jeopardy. Our lawyers can protect you from police interrogation, improper evidence collection procedures, or being forced to provide evidence to investigators without a court order.
Filing Charges in Court
There are several ways the state can file criminal charges in a criminal court. In the case of traffic offenses or minor misdemeanors, a police officer might issue you a citation with a court date on it. The citation is then filed with the court to start the court case.
A prosecutor may need to file a complaint supported by evidence from police reports in other cases. Once filed, the court will issue a summons for you to appear in court at a specified time and date.
When an officer or prosecutor files charges, a defendant can challenge the sufficiency of their evidence, resulting in the dismissal of the charges altogether. This need for clear evidence is why prosecutors seek grand jury indictments for serious charges.
A grand jury hears the prosecutor’s case and decides whether there is enough evidence to start a prosecution against the defendant. If they believe there is, the grand jury will issue an indictment, and this is the document filed with the court to start the criminal case against the defendant.
Whether initiated by a citation, complaint, indictment, or a combination of these documents, our lawyers will determine the best strategy for your case. It is sometimes advisable to challenge a charging document. In other cases, it is better to proceed to the pretrial investigation process and challenge the substance of the prosecution’s case using those procedures.
Arraignment and Release Conditions
Once charged with a crime, you have the right to formally hear the charges against you. This process is known as an arraignment. The arraignment process also deals with other important pretrial issues. The court will determine your pretrial release conditions if you are in custody.
The prosecutor may ask the court to set bail, require electronic monitoring through an ankle bracelet, or prevent you from driving or consuming alcohol. You have the right to challenge these conditions.
In most cases, the critical release condition is bail, and your attorney can argue that bail has been set too high. Your attorney can also challenge (or seek to modify other unfair conditions).
If, for example, the court orders you to stay away from someplace on your way to work, your attorney can ask the court to modify the release condition to allow you to get to work. If you can hire a lawyer before your arraignment, they can prepare you for pretrial release conditions in advance.
If you hire our team after your arraignment, we may challenge any unfair release conditions and ask the court to modify existing orders.
The Pretrial Investigation Process
Once you have been charged and arraigned, the case proceeds to an investigation phase. This process is different from the initial police investigation. During the pretrial investigation, the attorneys gather evidence (discovery) and formally share it with the other side (disclosure).
There are a few reasons why these procedures are significant. First, evidence not disclosed officially is not admissible at trial. Second, the discovery process lets each lawyer see the strengths and weaknesses of their case. This information leads to more effective plea negotiations.
Throughout the United States, most criminal cases end through plea agreements. A plea agreement lets a defendant avoid the risk of trial by pleading guilty. The defendant must waive the constitutional right to a jury trial to make a plea agreement. In exchange, a prosecutor will often let the defendant plead guilty to less serious charges or fewer charges than filed initially.
Plea agreements allow you strategically to avoid certain consequences. If, for example, your attorney plea bargains a felony charge down to misdemeanors, you will not face the automatic loss of your civil rights.
If your lawyer secures a plea deal to non-vehicular charges, you may not lose your driver’s license. These are just two examples of how your attorney can use a plea bargain strategically to a defendant’s advantage. The most common use of plea deals is to get a shorter sentence in jail or prison.
A plea bargain will not be right in every circumstance. If your defense lawyer can suppress evidence gathered unlawfully, the prosecution's case may fall apart.
It might be worth the risk at trial if the prosecution cannot admit much evidence against you. In other cases, the prosecutor might refuse to offer fair plea terms. In this case, it might be worth the risk of going to trial if the prosecutor is not offering you a much better plea deal.
Every case is different. Your defense lawyer will review the risks and benefits of going to trial in your particular circumstances. They will also advise you whether you should take a plea deal or not. Ultimately, however, the decision is yours to make.
If your attorney cannot reach a fair plea deal, you have the right to take your case to trial. Your criminal defense lawyer will protect your legal rights throughout the trial process.
First, the attorneys select a jury from a pool of eligible panelists, usually registered voters. Both the prosecutor and the defense lawyer can ask the court to remove prospective jurors who cannot be objective. Once empaneled, the jury will receive instructions and get sworn in. The prosecutor begins by making their opening argument.
Next, your defense lawyer makes an opening argument on your behalf. The prosecution then begins presenting its evidence.
The prosecution can call witnesses subject to cross-examination by your defense attorney. The prosecution can also admit videos, photographs, documents, and other tangible evidence, but these too are subject to any objections your attorney might make. Once the prosecution has finished making its case, your lawyer will be allowed to present your case.
You can also present witnesses who are subject to cross-examination by the prosecution. Your photographs, videos, and documents can also face objections from a prosecutor. Once both sides have finished their case (and made rebuttals, if necessary), the lawyers will make closing statements.
At this point, the judge gives the jury its instructions, and the jurors deliberate. If the jury acquits you, the prosecution generally cannot appeal the verdict or retry your case. If the jury finds you guilty, your case will proceed to sentencing. Your attorney might also advise you to file an appeal of the conviction.
FAQs About Vehicular Assault and Manslaughter
Can prosecutors charge me with additional felonies?
In addition to assault or manslaughter, the state can also charge a driver with other serious felonies. The state can charge DUI and hit and run as a felony when someone is seriously injured. Multiple felonies can quickly add up to a potential sentence of years - or even decades - in prison.
If convicted of multiple offenses, will my sentences be added together?
If convicted on multiple charges, an individual’s sentences will run either consecutively or concurrently. The individual serves concurrent sentences at the same time. This process results in a shorter overall sentence. In contrast, consecutive sentences follow one after the other, and the resulting time served is much longer.
These stacked sentences can quickly add up, so you want to work with an experienced lawyer who knows how to argue for a concurrent sentence whenever the law allows it.
Should I plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter or assault?
This is a question you need to directly discuss with your defense lawyer, as they can provide advice based on your specific situation. Some people benefit from pleading guilty, while others risk overly harsh and lasting collateral consequences for the rest of their lives. Never plead guilty to any criminal charge without fully discussing your options and their implications with your defense attorney.
Experienced, Aggressive Defense For All Los Angeles Vehicular Assault and Manslaughter Charges
At Chudnovsky Law, we fight hard to protect our client’s legal rights. Our experienced lawyers will aggressively defend you from allegations of any vehicular crime. We challenge improper evidence, negotiate with prosecutors, and litigate aggressively in court when necessary.
Vehicular assault and manslaughter are grave offenses. Even though they result from car accidents, the driver can still face years in prison for their unintentional actions. Drivers also face the suspension (or revocation) of their driver’s license, the loss of civil rights, and other legal consequences. You should hire a Los Angeles vehicular assault and manslaughter lawyer as soon as possible.
Our legal team will find the best strategy for your case to get the best possible resolution. Our legal experience and familiarity with local courts allow us to fight hard and get the best results for our clients.
Contact us at (213) 212-5002 for your free consultation. Don’t wait to get an experienced Los Angeles vehicular assault and manslaughter lawyer on your side.