Raymond Morua, a former aide to Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) is facing up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced later this month in connection with a December 6, 2013 hit-and-run accident that claimed the life of a 27-year-old woman.
Morua initially faced 20 years to life in prison and charges that included vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run. He pled guilty on April 15 to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of a crime and faces up to 20 years in prison when he returns to court for his May 28 sentencing.
Prosecutors alleged that Morua was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, when he struck a pedestrian who was legally crossing the street in Downtown Santa Barbara. He then fled the scene in his vehicle, but was later arrested. He was accused of having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .17%, which is more than twice the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in California. Morua was also found to have a criminal history that included two prior DUI arrests, a hit-and-run and an embezzlement conviction.
In a Santa Barbara courtroom in the presence of his family and the family of the victim, Morua pled guilty to the felony offense of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, to causing great bodily injury and to fleeing the scene after the crime, which alone carried an additional five-year prison sentence. He also admitted to prior DUI convictions in Ventura, CA.
Morua's plea agreement also included the payment of restitution, the submission of a formal apology to the victim's family and participation in an anti-DUI video made in conjunction with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
The family of the victim also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Morua, Rep. Capps and the U.S. government. The suit was filed in federal court.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated Charges in California
Of all DUI-related charges, those involving vehicular manslaughter are the most serious. Under California Penal Code § 191.5(a), a defendant may be charged with "gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated" following certain fatal auto accidents where the defendant was found to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the collision. There are several primary elements to a charge of this kind. The prosecution must prove:
- The defendant was driving under the influence;
- The defendant committed a wrongful act (such as a traffic offense or crime);
- The defendant committed said wrongful act with gross negligence; and
- The defendant's act caused the death of another person.
A defendant may face up to 4, 6 or 10 years in state prison if convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. If the defendant has a prior manslaughter conviction or two or more prior DUI convictions, he or she may face 15 years to life in prison. With his two prior DUI convictions and along with the 5-year sentence for fleeing the scene of an accident, the defendant in the above case faced 20 years to life in prison.
The immediate defense of DUI charges is crucial, whether you are facing a first offense or have been charged with felony hit-and-run or vehicular manslaughter. At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, we are committed to representing drivers' rights in and around Orange County, California. We protect our clients' freedom, driving privileges and reputations by fighting for their constitutional rights inside and outside of the criminal courtroom. To learn more about our firm and the options you may have in the face of your charges, please contact an Orange County DUI lawyer at our offices.