Ever wondered what happens to people who accidentally kill others in a drunk or drugged driving accident? Do they walk away, free of criminal charges? Do they get a slap on the wrist? Or, are they charged under one of California’s homicide statutes?
To shed light on deadly drunk driving accidents, we’re going to share a true story that occurred in 2013 involving a Capistrano Beach woman who struck an elderly woman on the Fourth of July.
OC WOMAN SENTENCED TO 18 YEARS
On Nov. 20, 2015, an Orange County woman convicted of killing a grandmother who was with her blind grandson during Fourth of July celebrations was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The 47-year-old drunken hit-and-run driver, of Capistrano Beach, was found guilty by a jury on one count each of:
· Driving without a valid driver’s license;
· Driving under the influence with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more;
· Driving under the influence causing bodily injury; and
· Second-degree murder, also known as a “Watson Murder.”
The drunk driver also received a sentencing enhancement for driving with a BAC of 0.15% or more.
Here’s what happened: On July 4, 2013 at around 8:30 p.m., the victim, a 76-year-old woman, was standing in a gutter on El Camino Real as her 13-year-old blind grandson was standing on the curb, holding her arm. The pair were there for a Fourth of July celebration.
The drunk driver, who was driving a Volkswagen van, drove over the grandmother and without stopping, headed home. The crash caused the van’s horn to go off and the drunk driver drove all the way home with the horn blaring. Orange County sheriff’s deputies eventually arrested the woman at her home. Approximately 2 hours after the deadly hit-and-run crash, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registered at .31%.
The elderly woman died as a result of the injuries sustained from the crash. Her grandson was transported to a local hospital to treat injuries to his face, mouth and legs. Fortunately, his injuries were not life-threatening.
SECOND-DEGREE MURDER CHARGES
This wasn’t the defendant’s first DUI. She was convicted of DUI in Nevada in 1995. When she renewed her California driver license in 2008, she acknowledged that the state could charge her with murder if she ever killed another person while driving under the influence.
If this was the first time the woman was ever convicted of DUI, she likely would have been charged with vehicular manslaughter under Penal Code 191.5, but since she was convicted of DUI before and acknowledged she could be charged with murder if she killed another person while under the influence, she was charged with “second degree murder,” which is worse than vehicular manslaughter.