California bicyclist charged with felony vehicular manslaughter

In a historic case, a San Francisco man has pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter for killing a pedestrian whom he hit with his bicycle. The bicyclist struck a 71-year-old man who was crossing the street in the city’s Castro District. The pedestrian died from his injuries several days later. According to San Francisco District Attorney George Gasc?n, this is the first time a bicyclist has been convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter in the United States, but he contends that the charge was warranted due to the facts of the case, and to serve as a warning to other bicyclists.

According to prosecutors, the 37-year-old bicyclist was traveling downhill at approximately thirty miles per hour in March of last year. He was accused of running several red lights and a stop sign before entering the crowded intersection where the victim was crossing with his wife. The district attorney said that this level of negligence warranted more than a manslaughter charge.

Although a defendant convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter can be sentenced to as long as six years in prison, the victim’s son said that he did not want the man to serve jail time. Therefore, under a plea deal, the bicyclist was given one thousand hours of community service and three years’ probation.

This incident was actually the second one in the same month in which a San Francisco pedestrian died from injuries caused by a collision with a bicyclist. In that case, the bicyclist pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter after crashing into a 67-year-old woman. That woman died a month later from her injuries. The bicyclist also received three years’ probation, but was only sentenced to five hundred hours of community service.

As this case exemplifies, bicycles be a cause of wrongful death, just as cars, motorcycles, and trucks can be when people do not obey the rules of the road. This is particularly true when cyclists travel at high speeds, and on the kind of steep hills for which San Francisco is known. Usually it is the bicyclist who is the one hurt, but serious injuries and even death can result when a pedestrian is hit. Anyone who has been injured by a vehicle of any type should not hesitate to contact an attorney to ensure that the person at fault faces the necessary criminal and civil penalties.

Source:  Chicago Tribune, “Cyclist pleads guilty to first U.S. felony vehicular manslaughter by bike: prosecutor” Laila Kearney, Jul. 23, 2013