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Here's why Caitlyn Jenner could face a manslaughter charge

Here's why Caitlyn Jenner could face a manslaughter charge
Kim Howe's was rear-ended by Caitlyn Jenner's Escalade and sent into oncoming traffic, where it collided with a Hummer on Pacific Coast Highway in February. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Caitlyn Jenner was involved in a deadly chain-reaction crash earlier this year on Pacific Coast Highway.

Now, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials are planning to recommend to prosecutors that Jenner be charged in the incident.

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Here are some key questions:

What are deputies alleging?

Authorities say Jenner was driving at an unsafe speed Feb. 7 when her Escalade hit driver Kim Howe's car, ultimately leading to the crash in which Howe died. Jenner was not driving above the speed limit, but driving at an unsafe speed for the road conditions that day, they say.

What charges might Jenner face?

It would likely be a misdemeanor manslaughter case.

"Basically, anyone can get into this situation behind the wheel like Ms. Jenner. There is no drugs or alcohol involved. This is just unsafe driving," said attorney Dmitry Gorin, a former L.A. County prosecutor. "Misdemeanor manslaughter happens to people every day. I remember a law professor getting charged. ... If you commit a road infraction that results in a death, that becomes a traffic misdemeanor manslaughter."

While the word manslaughter is used , Gorin said the driver in such cases had no intent of committing a crime.

He said the most anyone usually faces for the misdemeanor offense is a year in jail, fines and driver privilege restrictions.

"It sounds serious, but as a practical course, these cases are resolved without jail time. These are the type of cases [in which] the D.A. needs to exercise discretion."

"Here you have a woman with no criminal record, a strong valuable member of the community and a prior Olympian," Gorin said.

Stan Goldman, Loyola Law School professor and a former deputy public defender, said "misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter is a rare crime that can be caused by ordinary negligence: Handling a vehicle is dangerous."

Goldman said judges tend to be sympathetic to defendants in such cases.

"I once pleaded my client guilty in one of these cases," Goldman said. "The city attorney wanted the maximum of a year in jail. The judge said they weren't going to punish someone for the simplest form of negligence and these are one out of a thousand cases based on circumstances."

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What happens next?

The evidence is to be presented to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office next week. Prosecutors will review the case and decide whether to formally charge Jenner. Typically, a single misdemeanor manslaughter charge could carry a sentence of a year in jail.

Twitter: @lacrimes and @VeronicaRochaLA

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