February 7, 2013–Lakewood, California–A 25-year-old man who has a previous conviction for felony DUI was arrested and charged with murder after being involved in a fatal crash while allegedly under the influence of alcohol, according to the Los Angeles Times. The suspect is also charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, causing bodily injury and theft of a vehicle.
The crash occurred on State Route 330 near State Route 18 when the driver rolled his vehicle, ejecting a female passenger from the car. The 18-year-old girl died of her injuries and the suspect was arrested on suspicion of DUI Murder. Two other passengers were injured in the crash.
Investigators later learned that the suspect had already been involved in a fatal DUI collision in 2009 and had been convicted of felony DUI, a charge usually made when alcohol is involved in a crash with injuries or fatalities. He was re-arrested for the current charges with murder being added.
California DUI Laws Provide Escalating Penalties
While a first-time DUI offense is normally a misdemeanor, California law provides prosecutors with a way to enhance charges and sentencing if the driver injures or kills someone or leaves the scene of an accident. In those cases, drivers can be charged with felonies up to and including murder, as in the present case. This gives prosecutors the flexibility to match the charge to the offense. If an offender has already killed someone in a DUI accident, it is far more appropriate to charge that individual with a more serious crime than if the person is a first-time offender who has not caused any damage or injury.
How Big Is the DUI Problem?
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs continues to be a major problem for Californians. According to the Century Council, 2010 saw 791 drunk driving fatalities on California highways, 94 of which were victims under the age of 21. More than 71 percent of these drivers had blood alcohol contents of .15 or more, twice the legal limit for intoxication.
These grim statistics are tempered by the fact that California has seen a reduction of 27 percent in overall DUI fatalities since 2000 and a 53 percent reduction in fatalities of victims under 21 years of age. Better DUI education may be responsible for these encouraging numbers, but the fact is that DUI remains one of the biggest killers of people of all ages in the state.
What Should I Do If I Am The Victim of a Drunk Driver?
If you are involved in a crash with a drunk driver, it is important for you to protect your rights. Whether or not the criminal justice system brings the driver to justice, you will still have to collect compensation for your medical bills, your living expenses and other costs. You are also entitled to payment for the pain and suffering you endure as a result of the collision. A personal injury attorney can help you collect these damages.