In March of 2019, a mother tragically lost her son after he was struck by a drunk driver while crossing the street. Her son, Kyle McNeley, had been crossing in a wheelchair across an intersection in Long Beach when Jesus Arias drove through the intersection. Arias was allegedly driving drunk with his two children in the car at the time of the incident.
According to authorities, Arias did not stop after striking McNeley and continued driving. A witness followed his car and urged Arias to back to the intersection because he hit a person. The witness said that once Arias heard what he had done, tears started falling from his eyes. Perhaps it was then that he realized the full weight of what just happened. After the driver returned to the scene, police arrested him on suspicion of DUI and hit-and-run shortly after. They also found that his driver’s license was invalid.
The victim was transported to a nearby hospital to receive medical treatment for his severe injuries but unfortunately succumbed to them and passed away.
An Early Release from Jail
On January 7th, 2020, Arias pleaded no contest to driving with a 0.08% blood-alcohol level causing injury, hit-and-run driving resulting in death, and child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death. That very day, he was handcuffed in a Long Beach courtroom and transported to the Los Angeles County Jail to serve his sentence.
However, on January 30th, 2020, Kyle McNeley’s mother Michelle was notified that Arias had been released from jail. According to the victim’s parents, they were forewarned by prosecutors that, due to overcrowding, it was likely that Arias would not serve his entire sentence. Instead, it would be up to the LA County Sheriff’s Department to determine how soon he would regain his freedom.
A spokesperson for the department explained that in order to lower the jail population amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in cases like Arias’, the suspect’s conviction and charges are weighed to help determine who gets released. They conceptualized this process as delicately balanced and continuously reviewed.
Early release in California is not uncommon because of several criminal justice reforms that have been made. As a result, low-level offenders are usually the first to be released. Non-intentional killing, as in the case of Arias, is considered to be a low-level offense. Because Arias’ one year sentence was a relatively short term, the department likely decided to make room for more dangerous inmates. This early release gives him the opportunity to further reflect on his alleged decision to drive drunk and learn from this unfortunate situation.
The District Attorney’s Office highlighted that Arias’ sentence included five years of probation, a 6-month DUI class, a morgue visit, 52 weeks of child abuse counseling and a Watson advisement, which means he can be charged with murder if he drives under the influence and kills someone again.