Vehicular Homicide

Hit-And-Run in San Jose Ends with Death of Motorcyclist (CA Penal Code §191.5(b))

The yet unidentified driver of a Lexus attempted to flee the scene at the 1400 block of White Road before being caught by local law enforcement.  The incident also involved a motorcyclist, who was pronounced dead at the scene.  To complicate matters, the driver of the Lexus was charged with not only vehicular manslaughter, but also driving under the influence and hit-and-run. 

At first glance, this case may seem cut and dry – most people would assume that if the driver of the Lexus was accused of a DUI, then they must have been at fault.  Yet, it is the consequences of CA Penal Code §191.5(b) (vehicular manslaughter & DUI) that must be questioned here.  This provision of the law states that an individual who is too impaired to drive must cause the unintended death of another person.

However, officials must be able to prove, first of all, that the driver was indeed impaired.  Just because the driver of the Lexus might have been drinking does not mean that they were too ‘drunk’ to drive.  Furthermore, there is often an assumption, both by the public and by the police, that an impaired driver is the cause of any accident.  This is often not the case and other forensic evidence should not be ignored.  For example, the driver of the Lexus may not be at fault at all – it is not yet known what the actual cause of the accident was.  In fact, the motorcyclist may have been at fault (he or she could have been speeding, could have suddenly crossed over into the Lexus’s lane, or have cut the Lexus off unexpectedly).  This is all to say that just because a traffic accident, even one this serious, occurs and one driver has had a few drinks, this does not necessarily mean that the supposedly ‘impaired’ driver was at fault.

Woman Hospitalized After Bayview District Hit-And-Run (CA Vehicle Code §20002)

An unnamed woman (59) sustained serious injuries after a hit-and-run on Third Street close to Revere Avenue in the Bayview neighborhood.  Local law enforcement officials are still looking for the driver of a dark sedan that drove away after the incident.  The woman who was hit was immediately sent to San Francisco General Hospital where she was treated for internal injuries; her current status is unknown.

Under California law, a person may be charged with either misdemeanor hit-and-run or felony hit-and run (CA Vehicle Code §20002).  In order to be accused of a misdemeanor hit-and-run, you must have left the scene of an accident without having identified yourself and have damaged property during the course of the incident.  Thus, misdemeanor hit-and-run charges are based on the damaging of property.

However, felony hit-and-run charges are based, not on property damage, but on injury.  If you are involved in a vehicular accident in which someone else was either injured or killed – and you left the scene without identifying yourself – then you could be charged with a California felony hit-and-run.  Depending on the seriousness of the injuries, for example, the person who caused the unnamed 59-year-old pedestrian to be admitted to the hospital will face strict penalties and fines.

Even a misdemeanor hit-and-run conviction means the possibility of 6 months in jail, 2 points on your driving record, and a maximum fine of $1,000.   Felony charges of this kind mean from 3-4 years in state prison and up to a $10,000 fine.  In the case of the driver of the dark sedan, the individual is likely to be charged with a felony hit-and-run and, because of the serious nature of the woman’s injuries, would, if convicted, likely end up spending 4 years in jail.

ARREST RESULTS ON SUSPICION OF DUI DOWN FROM LAST MEMORIAL WEEKEND (CA Penal Code §23152)

Memorial Day weekend is a time for barbeques, spending time with family and friends, and taking time out of our busy schedules in order to remember those who have fought for our country.  The California Highway Patrol, however, looks at it as a time of increased arrests for DUI (CA Penal Code §23152), as numbers for this type of arrest usually go up around holidays such as this.  However, despite one crash in San Mateo County at a Hillside Boulevard cemetery that ended the lives of three people, DUI arrests were down this year.  Of course, the number only went down by one – the CHP report suggests that there were 166 arrests last year and only 165 arrests this year.

This begs an important question: are officers in the California Highway Patrol looking for people to arrest on DUI charges or do more people actually drive while intoxicated during this particular holiday?  In the case of 25-year-old Paul Diaz, whose Ford Mustang ran into another Ford, causing Ruvin Vazquez, Jonathan Mouton, and Rosa Falla to careen into a nearby cemetery, cutting the car in half, there was no evidence at the scene to suggest that either alcohol or drugs were related to the accident.  First, it occurred at around 7:30 a.m. and, second, Diaz turned himself into the police.

So, although Memorial Day, amongst other holidays, may be a time during which individuals consume more alcohol, it is also likely that the CHP also allow themselves to assume that many accidents that occur during that particular time frame are alcohol-related when, in fact, they are not.

Voluntary Manslaughter Charge under PC 192(a) in Livermore Road Rage Incident

Cort Holbrook, a software engineer out of Livermore, was out about town when he noticed that Ricky Zeismer was driving erratically and causing dangerous issues with the traffic ahead.  The two eventually pulled over and got into a serious scuffle, with Holbrook receiving several kicks and punches from Zeismer.  The road rage incident ended only when Holbrook felt it necessary to stab Zeismer, resulting in his eventual death, in order to protect himself.  Holbrook certainly has the cuts and bruises to prove it.

Alameda County prosecutors attempted to charge Holbrook with 2nd degree murder, but were unsuccessful.  Instead, a charge of “voluntary manslaughter” was entered and Holbrook will serve somewhere between 4 and 12 years in a California state prison for his actions.

California Penal Code, §192(a) speaks to voluntary manslaughter and the criteria for such a charge are quite specific.  In order to be considered voluntary manslaughter, a killing must be committed under certain circumstances – such as a sudden altercation or in the heat of the moment, when passions are high.  Furthermore, it must be proven that the accused was provoked and had no choice but to have an irrational response.  “Sufficient provocation” is key in these types of cases and, though it is ill defined, the level of provocation must be high in order to enter this defense.

A charge of voluntary manslaughter – as opposed to the far more serious 2nd degree murder – means the difference between a maximum of 11 years in state prison versus life imprisonment or even execution.  Following the argument of the criminal defense attorney, the jury agreed with Holbrook – that he acted in self-defense, was sufficiently provoked, and that he acted in the heat of the moment when he chose to take out his knife to protect himself against Zeismer.

If you or someone you know is facing charges of vehicular homicide contact a criminal defense attorney at the San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland or Burlingame offices of Summit Defense Attorneys for free initial consultation.

San Francisco Vehicular Homicide Charge in Teen Drunk Driving Accident

San Francisco police have accused 29-year-old Kieran Brewer of killing 17-year-old Hanren Chang, a student at Lowell High School – they have charged him with a felony DUI and with vehicular manslaughter. It seems that Chang was attempting to cross Sloat Boulevard at Vale, an intersection within 8 blocks of 19th avenue, when she was struck by Brewer’s car.

Officer Gordon Shyy of the San Francisco Police said that the young girl was hit at around 11:20pm on Saturday night. He was quick to add that he did not know what Brewer’s blood alcohol level was at the time that the accident happened, but he did mention that Brewer remained at the scene of the accident and attempted to help the girl in some way.  It is not known why such a young person was out walking around at such a late hour or whether or not she made proper use of the crosswalk at Vale and Sloat when she attempted to cross the road.  In addition, that particular intersection does not have either stop signs or a traffic light, so there is little to alert oncoming traffic to pedestrians as they cross the road.  The young girl died later in the hospital.

Felony DUIs connected with vehicular manslaughter charges are taken seriously in the state of California.  CA Penal Code 191.5(b) covers “Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated” and prosecutors must be able to prove that Brewer, for example, had a BAC of .08 or higher before they may proceed further.  When an individual is charged with this in particular, the offenses are merged together and, if convicted, Brewer will face penalties for the manslaughter alone; California prosecutors cannot sentence him separately for the DUI charge under this regulation.

In any case, the evidence for a case like Brewer’s is rarely cut and dry.  The fact that Brewer remained after causing the accident will probably work in his favor.  The simple truth is that it was late and the young girl may have crossed the road without waiting to look for oncoming traffic; Brewer may have simply had a few drinks out with friends while having dinner and may not have been intoxicated enough to have otherwise avoided this tragic death.  The fact that there were no traffic lights or stop signs at the intersection in question will most likely also enter into Brewer’s defense.

If you or someone you know needs the services of a San Francisco Criminal Attorney, contact the law offices of Summit Defense for a free initial consultation.