Under California law, if you were operating a vehicle in gross or reckless manner and caused a crash that resulted in death, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Although you might know that a person driving a car in a careless way that causes a fatal accident could be charged with a criminal offense, you may not be aware that, depending on their actions, a passenger could also face charges.
If you are the passenger in a vehicle that is involved in a crash that results in the loss of another person’s life and you hide facts about the accident, you could be considered an accessory to vehicular manslaughter. California law defines an accessory as a person who knowingly and voluntarily conceals information or evidence or harbors an individual who has committed a crime with the intent to help them avoid criminal prosecution.
Accessory After the Fact to Vehicular Manslaughter
In 2016, a California woman was charged with this offense after her husband crossed a double yellow line while he was driving down a highway. The prosecutor alleged that his actions caused a vehicle to swerve onto the shoulder and then back on the road. The driver of that car hit an oncoming vehicle, which resulted in the death of three people.
The husband and wife initially left the scene, but returned and spoke with police officers but did not admit to being involved in the accident nor that the man crossed the double-yellow line.
During his trial, the husband said that he didn’t believe his actions caused the collision. However, he was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter. He faces 5 years, 4 months in prison.
The wife stated that she was asleep when the accident happened and was not aware that her husband crossed the double-yellow line. She and her attorney maintained that the driver of a truck on the road at the time was actually responsible for the collision.
In September of 2019, the woman was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter. She could be sentenced to up to 4 years, 8 months in prison.
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