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Assault with a Deadly Weapon for a DUI Crash?


A Ukiah, California woman faces assault with a deadly weapon charge for allegedly driving her vehicle into a neighbor’s house while under the influence of alcohol. The charge is an attempt to prevent Joan Ellen Rainville, who has a history of drunk driving, from ever driving again.

On May 26th, Rainville drove her vehicle through her neighbors’ fence while they were hosting a party in their backyard. Rainville’s Toyota Camry crossed the grass and collided with the wall of the master bedroom. Fortunately, the car did not break through the wall as a boy was sleeping nearby. No one was hurt in the incident.

According to prosecutors, Rainville’s blood alcohol content was at least 0.25 percent.

This is Rainville’s second DUI related accident this year, and her third since 2005. It would also be her fifth DUI related offense since 1996.

If convicted, Rainville faces a misdemeanor charge where the maximum penalty would be a year in county jail. In California, a fourth DUI, or more, within a ten year period becomes a felony. Only two of Rainville’s prior DUI convictions happened within ten years making this her third DUI within the 10 year period. The other two DUIs occurred in 1996 and 2001.

Not happy with the potential sentence, Mendocino County District Attorney Matt Hubley filed  a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge so that Rainville could possibly get four years in prison and a permanent revocation of her driver’s license.

The basis for Hubley’s charge is an extension of the Watson Rule. The Watson Rule stems from a 1981 California Supreme Court case that allows prosecutors to charge second degree murder in a DUI resulting in death when the suspect has had one or more prior DUI’s. The case allowed prosecutors to find that a defendant had “implied malice” when they had been made aware, through the sentence of their prior conviction, of the potentially deadly consequences of driving drunk.

Although common for intentional acts involving an automobile like road rage incidents, assault with a deadly weapon for a DUI accident is a clear prosecutorial overreach by Hubley. It seems that Hubley would like to change the law as he sees fit. Neither politics nor public outrage regarding drunk driving should be able to alter what the law is, or has been.

Assault, whether with a deadly weapon or not, is a specific intent crime. This means that Rainville must have specifically intended to cause harm to her neighbors and their guests. Unlike second degree murder, which is a general intent crime, prosecutors cannot find intent through implied malice.

While she may be guilty of driving under the influence once again, Rainville is not guilty of assault with a deadly weapon.

The post Assault with a Deadly Weapon for a DUI Crash? appeared first on Law Offices of Taylor and Taylor - DUI Central.

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