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.