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Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, as it is commonly called, or PC 191.5(a), is an extremely serious charge in criminal court. This is what is usually charged when a person drives drunk and someone is killed as a result. These types of cases involve a lot of science and experts because there is usually much debate over what actually CAUSED the death of the decedent.


For the defendant to be guilty, four conditions must be met:

  1. the defendant drove while intoxicated
  2. while driving, the defendant committed another unlawful act not amounting to a felony
  3. the act was done with gross negligence
  4. the act was the cause of the victim’s death

NOTE: Gross negligence is when a person acts recklessly and that recklessness creates a high risk of death or injury AND a reasonable person would not commit such an act.

Examples of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, PC 191.5(a)

  1. Sam is driving while intoxicated and does donuts at a busy intersection and hits a pedestrian.
  2. Steve drives while intoxicated and quickly speeds up to 85 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone. He sees another car in front of him but does not have time to stop. He rear ends that car, which causes that car to go into the intersection and hit ANOTHER car. As a result, one of the other drivers dies.

In both of these examples, the driver was both intoxicated AND did something that increased the possibility of death or serious injury to another person, and as a result, someone was killed.

Jail Time

A conviction of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, PC 191.5(a), carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison.


Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, PC 191.5(a), is a strike because it is a “serious” felony.


  1. Your unlawful act (in addition to driving while intoxicated) was not the cause of the victim’s death.

If the defendant died, but not as a result of your unlawful act, then there is no causation, which means that you are guilty of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, PC 191.5(a). Let’s say you drove with gross negligence, but another driver drove even MORE negligently, a top criminal lawyer can use facts and science to put into question whether it was YOUR unlawful act that led to the victim’s death–because it could very well have been the fault of another driver.

2. You weren’t intoxicated.

If you weren’t intoxicated, then one of the elements of the crime is not met. The methods used to prove this is the same methods employed in DUI cases. Your criminal defense lawyer has to challenge the blood tests, your field sobriety tests, your actions, and other evidence, immediately following the accident.

3. You did not act with gross negligence.

Perhaps you were intoxicated but you did nothing wrong, and if you HAD done something wrong, it was very minor and did not rise to gross negligence. For instance, you were speeding, but you were only going 5 miles above the speed limit in a 45mph zone. While you did break the law, it was not gross negligence.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, PC 191.5(a), cases are among the most difficult to fight in criminal court. These cases require a top criminal lawyer with experience because it involves expert witnesses. The key is to use science and aggressive lawyering to show that your actions were not the cause of the victim’s death. Your lawyer would also have to fight tooth and nail to show that you were actually not intoxicated, or that you did not act with gross negligence. Whatever the defense, we are aggressive and take these cases very seriously because the difference between guilt and innocence in these cases mean the world to our clients. Call us to see how we can help you fight this serious charge. We serve Orange County, LA County, Riverside County, San Bernardino, and all of southern California. We conduct business with our clients both in person and remotely. Our phone number is 213-235-7969 and we look forward to discussing your case with you.

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