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Vehicular Homicide vs. Manslaughter

Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo

When it comes to crimes related to fatal car accidents, two terms that often come up are vehicular homicide and manslaughter. These charges can have severe consequences and legal implications…but what’s the difference?

Understanding Vehicular Homicide and Manslaughter

Vehicular Homicide

California Penal Code §192(c)(1) makes it illegal to drive a vehicle during the commission of an unlawful act (that isn’t a felony) with gross negligence, which causes a death. Section 192(c)(1) applies only to deaths not involving malice. In other words, vehicular homicide refers to the unintentional killing of another person while operating a motor vehicle. This charge is typically applied when the driver was engaged in reckless behavior, such as driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or engaging in high-speed car chases. In the eyes of the law, vehicular homicide is usually considered a felony offense.


Under California Penal Code §192 PC, voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being that occurs in the heat of passion, based on a sincere but unjustified belief in the need to defend one’s self, and during a sudden argument. To summarize, manslaughter involves causing the death of another person also without the element of malice aforethought. In the context of a fatal car accident, manslaughter charges can be brought if the driver acted with negligence or recklessness that led to the death of another person. Manslaughter can be categorized as either voluntary or involuntary, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident.

Differentiating Vehicular Homicide and Manslaughter

The key difference between vehicular homicide and manslaughter lies in the offender’s mental state and intent. In a vehicular homicide case, there is a higher burden to prove that the driver engaged in reckless behavior, whereas manslaughter focuses more on negligence or lack of reasonable care.


Both vehicular homicide and manslaughter convictions can lead to severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, probation, and license suspension. The specific sentence will depend on various factors, such as the gravity of the offense, prior criminal record, and the judge’s discretion. It is essential to consult with an Orange County criminal defense lawyer to understand the potential consequences you may be facing and to determine the best course of action for your defense.

Building Your Defense

When it comes to defending charges of vehicular homicide or manslaughter, an experienced attorney can help navigate the legal complexities and build a strong defense strategy tailored to your case. Your attorney may investigate the accident scene, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and work with expert witnesses to challenge the prosecution’s case. Additionally, they can negotiate with the prosecution for a reduced charge or explore alternative sentencing options to minimize the potential consequences.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

The Law Offices of William Bruzzo provides reliable legal representation in southern California. Our experienced Orange County criminal defense attorneys will guide you through the complexities of a vehicular homicide or a manslaughter charge, working diligently to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for you. To schedule a free legal consultation or case review, contact our office today. 

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