Illegal Act Not Amounting to a Felony Examples

In People v. Wells (1996), the court followed People v. Stuart (1956) 47 Cal. 2d 167, 173 302 P.2d 5, 55 A.L.R.2d 705, where it previously construed the statutory phrase "unlawful act not amounting to a felony" to include the commonlaw requirement that the unlawful act be dangerous to life or safety. (People v. Wells, supra, 12 Cal. 4th at pp. 984-986.) However, the lawful act/unlawful manner alternative element is expressed in different statutory language: "the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence." ( 191.5, subd. (a).) Gross negligence involves aggravated, reckless, or flagrant disregard for human life, or indifference to the consequences of one's conduct. (See People v. Alonzo (1993) 13 Cal. App. 4th 535, 539-540 16 Cal. Rptr. 2d 656.) In People v. DeSpenza (1962) 203 Cal. App. 2d 283, 291 [21 Cal. Rptr. 275], the court cited Wilson for the "prevailing rule" that ordinary negligent driving "is in itself an unlawful act" under the manslaughter statute. (Accord, In re Dennis B. (1976) 18 Cal. 3d 687, 697 [135 Cal. Rptr. 82, 557 P.2d 514].) In People v. Ross (1956) 139 Cal. App. 2d 706 [294 P.2d 174], the court considered speeding through an intersection evidence of either a total lack of attention or a disregard for the consequences of his speed. Citing Wilson, the court opined, "This evidence justifies an inference of negligence on the part of the operator of the vehicle. Thus defendant was doing a lawful act which might, and actually did, produce death, in an unlawful manner, . . ." (Id. at pp. 710-711.)