Vehicular Manslaughter in Oklahoma

In Yuba City on October 2, 2008, Cory Beck was making his daily trek to work on his bicycle. Unfortunately, he never made it to work because at 4:15, 22-year-old Juan Carlos Gomez turned his truck right into Beck’s path, killing Beck and changing his own life forever. He was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and a vehicle code violation of making an unlawful turning movement, which ultimately resulted in the death of Cory Beck. He entered a plea of not guilty to the charge when he appeared for arraignment April 28, 2009.

Oklahoma law defines vehicular manslaughter as the crime of negligently driving a vehicle and directly causing the death of a human being. Vehicular manslaughter may be charged as a misdemeanor if it was due to a minor crime, such as in Gomez’s case, and this charge faces up to a year in County Jail or a fine. However, if you are found to be guilty of driving under the influence or any other kind of reckless driving such as excessive speeding, you will be facing a felony charge and much harsher punishment. You might even find yourself envying people who had been caught drunk driving and gotten away with “just” a DUI.

The court documents in Gomez’s case state that he “did unlawfully turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway without using reasonable safety and without giving an appropriate signal to inform the operators of other vehicles of such intent.” Because of Gomez’s lack of appropriate care in one critical moment, he now faces up to a year in jail and has to live with the fact that his actions caused the death of another human being. The unsettling thing about this case is that almost all of us have probably been careless at some point while driving, but we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and no one was hurt.