When the Law Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

Losing a loved one is an experience that no one wants to go through, and it’s even worse when the tragedy could have been prevented. That’s the reality that the Rodriguez family had to face when they were given the news that Anna Rodriguez unfortunately passed away in a car crash.

On December 31, 2018, Ms. Rodriguez had been out with her boyfriend Edwin Sebastian and some friends celebrating Sebastian’s birthday. In celebration, he had some drinks and was getting noticeably affected by the alcohol. Rodriguez got upset about his drinking and even offered to drive the pair back.

However, Sebastian refused and decided to drive the both of them. Soon after, he ran a red light at Golden State Boulevard and American Avenue, and the car rolled. Unfortunately, Rodriguez did not survive the accident.

The defense team tried to ask for probation and no prison time, stating that Sebastian is admitting to alcoholism and seeks treatment.

In addition, he would plead guilty in order to spare Rodriguez’s family the pain of going through a trial. During the hearing, Sebastian said that he was sorry and asked for forgiveness from the family as well as from God.

Prosecution instead pushed for prison time, which Judge Jon Kapetan eventually granted. In line with state sentencing laws, Sebastian was given a six-year prison sentence for gross vehicular manslaughter. Even the judge apologized for not being able to send him away for a longer period of time and stated, “I agree the law is not sufficient.” State sentencing laws only allow for a maximum sentence of six years for this particular circumstance of case.

In giving out sentences, it is important to remember that state laws are there to make sure that those convicted are judged fairly for their crimes. But, when a judge apologizes to a family of young children because he knows that’s not enough, it makes you wonder what is fair?

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DUI Arrest Following Irvine Jail Crash

It never ceases to amaze me – and in many ways frighten me – the ways that impaired drivers are arrested on suspicion of DUI.

At around 3:00 a.m. on July 29th, a 19-year-old girl was arrested on suspicion of DUI after crashing her Range Rover into the front gate of the James A. Musick jail facility in Irvine.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department shared the news and some photos on their Twitter feed along with an impactful statement, “We are grateful no OCSD personnel were injured in this collision. While this damage can be fixed, we know that’s not always the case with DUI collisions. Losing a loved one or friend is irreparable. Please always designate a driver or coordinate a ride.”

When you look at the photos posted, this response is no joke. The chain fence in front of the facility was completely knocked down and now lays across the entrance road. The Range Rover ended up on top of a cinder block on the lot with all four of its tires hovering above the ground. Its front bumper was ripped off completely and was nowhere to be seen in the pictures.

Despite how bad the images look, the driver fortunately suffered no injuries as a result of the accident. In addition, the jail facility was operating with minimal staff as of July 18th. They had shut down the grounds to allow for upgrades to their Intake Release Center and for the construction of new housing areas.

The driver’s name and additional information have not been released to the public yet. Other details will have to be worked out before the severity of her situation can be determined. Currently, it hasn’t been stated if the DUI charge is alcohol or drug-related. As a minor though, it makes it much more difficult for her to minimize this situation.

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More Research for Marijuana-Impaired Driving

It has been a few years now since marijuana has been made legal, both medicinally and recreationally, in areas of the United States. Unfortunately, it seems that there is still much confusion among the general public as to what exactly the laws concerning marijuana are.

In particular, consumers face issues gauging their own levels of impairment with the drug. They don’t know what standards to compare with nor do they understand how the drug affects their driving. Plus, marijuana DUI laws have been difficult to enforce. The safest rule of thumb would be if you feel any sort of impairment, it is probably safer to not get behind the wheel.

To improve safety on the road, more research needs to be conducted to better understand the effects of marijuana on the human body. This information would better prepare us and help us find a better way to conduct accurate field sobriety tests for THC. Well, it seems that steps are being taken in that direction. On July 10, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 127, a bill that would allow the Department of California Highway Patrol to conduct research into marijuana and its impact.

The bill would add some extra text into Section 23152 of the Vehicle Code to read, “Notwithstanding Section 23152, a person who is under the influence of a drug or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and drug who is under the supervision of, and on the property of, the Department of the California Highway Patrol may drive a vehicle for purposes of conducting research on impaired driving.”

Overall, the hope is that the research conducted by the Department will help promote public safety and public awareness about the use of marijuana and driving.

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Pittsburg Man Pleads Guilty to Murder Charge in DUI Crash

On March 23,2018, a Ford Escape was driving eastbound on Highway 4 when it crashed into a barrier and then into another car. Police suspected that the driver, Jose Amaya-Rivera, had been drinking prior to getting onto the road. His two other passengers sustained considerable injuries and needed to be hospitalized. One of the passengers, Yvonne Magdaleno died of her injuries a few days later.

Amaya-Rivera reportedly took three blood alcohol tests, with all results exceeding well past the legal limit. His first test detected a level of 0.27 and the last resulted in a 0.15, all taken within three hours of the reported crash. After being treated for his injuries, Amaya-Rivera was transported promptly to Martinez jail. At the time of his arrest, police charged him with murder, drunken driving with a prior DUI offense, and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

The prosecutor for this case, deputy district attorney Derek Butts, and his team charged Amaya-Rivera with murder instead of a lesser vehicular manslaughter charge. In considering the indictment, they reasoned that his prior DUI conviction and arrest in 2012 necessitated an increased sentence. Prosecution argued that the defendant would and should have known the repercussions of driving while intoxicated, due to his prior sentence. Therefore, his recent actions thus showed implied malice.

For second-degree murder, a person can reasonably face 15 years to life in prison. In Amaya-Rivera’s case, the defense team pleaded no contest to the charge of second-degree murder on Monday, July 15th. It was just days before his trial was scheduled to start that they accepted a lifetime prison term with the possibility of parole in 15 years.

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California Drivers Ranked High in Worst Drivers Ranking

For those of us who live in California, we are used to the questionable driving that we often see on the roads. So, it may come as no surprise that Californian drivers rank as some of the worst in the nation.

In a recent study by the financial website Smart Asset, California ranked third worst in the category for overall drivers. Mississippi and Alabama topped the list, coming in at first and second respectively.

Smart Asset “looked at the percentage of drivers who are insured, the number of driving under the influence (DUI) arrests per 1,000 drivers, the number of fatalities per 100,000 vehicle miles driven and how often residents google terms like ‘traffic ticket’ or ‘speeding ticket.’” The data for these metrics were pulled from a variety of sources, such as the Department of Transportation. From these numbers, the average rankings were calculated and then used to create the states’ final scores.

According to Smart Asset’s research, California placed 15th highest for DUIs, with 4.59 DUIs issued per 1,000 drivers. It also ranked as the sixth-highest in searches for speeding and traffic tickets. Looking at these statistics, it would be wise for California drivers to be extra careful when out on the roads.

Compared with the DUI data from Insurify, there were some slight discrepancies between the two sites. Insurify listed North Dakota as having the highest history of drunk drivers (see States With the Most Drunk Drivers), however, Smart Asset listed South Dakota as having this position at 12.99 DUIs per 1,000 drivers. Instead, South Dakota ranked third in Insurify’s data. It would be interesting to delve into the differences in methodology between the two studies.

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