You never think that a couple of drinks before driving is going to land you in jail. You certainly didn't think that you'll lose control over your car and drag two homeless people over fifty feet before their lifeless bodies were pried free from the car by the Jaws of Life. Now, at age 19, you're facing decades in prison.
Carmen Elena Chavez, 19, lost control of her 1989 Mercedes-Benz after she tried to turn right at an unsafe speed, reports KTLA. Her car skipped onto a curb, hit a building, and ran over two sleeping residents of Skid Row. The car had so much momentum that it kept moving for another fifty feet. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
Witness reports indicate that after the crash, all five occupants of the vehicle fled. Chavez, along with two others, returned moments later. According to the Daily News, when police arrived, they performed field sobriety tests on Chavez, which she subsequently failed. She has been charged with two counts each of each of vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving.
In California, there are two ways to convict someone of DUI manslaughter: gross vehicular manslaughter and ordinary vehicular manslaughter. A finding of "gross" negligence means the difference between a maximum of four years and a maximum of ten years in prison per victim.
In order to show "gross" negligence, the prosecutor will have to show some independently negligent act in addition to the underlying DUI. Her high-speed attempt at turning right that caused her to lose control of the car might suffice for such an act.
As for the dual-DUI charges, we suspect those are the twin charges of driving while impaired and driving with a 0.08 or higher. The charges are alternates that are brought to enable a conviction for cases where the driver was obviously impaired by a substance and either the substance was enough for a 0.08 or higher blood alcohol content, or the person was impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. It's essentially a catch-all to ensure that drugged drivers are also prosecuted.
- Consult a Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- 'Bad News Bears' Actress Dies in DUI Accident (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)
- Killing Someone While DUI: Manslaughter or 'Watson Murder?' (FindLaw's Los Angeles DUI Blog)
- Gross Negligence (FindLaw's LawBrain)