Vehicular Manslaughter: Bicyclists and Pedestrians
Just the other day, in a case of seeming first impression in California, a bicyclist in San Francisco plead guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter (Penal Code section 190.5 (a)) for fatally colliding his bicycle into a 71-year-old man who was walking down the sidewalk in the Castro. It was alleged that the defendant ran a red light and struck the victim who was walking with his wife.
While the defendant will not have to serve any jail or prison time, he will have a serious felony on his record and will be on probation and have to complete 1000 hours of community service once he is sentenced next month in San Francisco Superior Court. It was also alleged by a witness that the defendant had ran several other red lights soon before he struck the victim. The defendant claimed the light was yellow when he entered the intersection while footage from the cameras that were located at the intersection proved inconclusive.
This sentence is harsher than a defendant in a recent similar case in which a pedestrian was killed when the defendant plowed his bicycle in to the victim. In that case, the defendant was only convicted of a misdemeanor and was sentenced to only half as many community service hours.
Vehicular manslaughter cases, while always packed with emotion, are often defensible cases as it can be very difficult to prove that the defendant was grossly negligent or violated some law which resulted in the death of the victim. It is essential to have an excellent investigator, accident re-constructionist or other appropriate experts on the legal team. I have had particularly good success with these cases employing this strategy.