Fontana Woman Involved in the Death of Six on Freeway

Olivia Carolee Culbreath was sentenced on December 5th, 2018 to 30 years to life in prison for the death of six individuals in a wrong way crash on the 60 freeway in Diamond Bar in 2014. The sentencing comes as a result of the open plea that was given to the court and thus leaving the sentencing in the hands of a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, rather than a negotiated plea deal.

The accident happened in the early hours of February 9th, 2014. Culbreath, after having drinks at a bar in Fullerton, drove against traffic on the 57 and 60 freeways in Diamond Bar. Her Chevy Camaro collided head-on with a Ford Explorer, killing all four of the vehicle’s occupants: Huntington Park residents Gregorio Mejia-Martinez, 47; Leticia Ibarra, 42; their daughter, Jessica Mejia, 20; and her grandmother, Ester Delgado, 80. Culbreath’s 24-year-old sister, Maya, and one of Culbreath’s friends, Kristin Young, 21, of Chino, also died in the crash, leaving Culbreath the only survivor of the deadly crash–although with significant injuries of her own. Her first appearance in court had her brought in by stretcher and continuing to receive treatment in the jail ward for her injuries. She was brought in by wheelchair for later hearings.

Nearly three hours after the crash, Culbreath’s blood alcohol content was found to be at 0.15 percent, almost twice that of the legal limit. She had just given birth 11 days before the crash and had spent the days following the birth suffering from postpartum depression.

During the sentencing hearing, she apologized for her actions through tears and was heard saying she asks God for forgiveness every single day. Her attorneys describe her as “extremely remorseful.” And that she had “insisted on pleading no contest to try and spare the victims’ families more pain without the case going to trial.”

The judge took into account that Culbreath was convicted of a DUI in 2010 and had been formally warned by the court regarding the dangers of drunk driving. Her driver’s license had been suspended after the 2010 conviction and had been reinstated December 2011. This conviction was what allowed the prosecutors to charge her with murder for the Diamond Bar crash. The judge rejected the defense’s request for the minimum sentence of 15 to life, however, since Culbreath was 21 at the time of the incident, she will be eligible for parole after 25 years.

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Orange County Doctor Arrested for Selling Opioids Illegally

An Orange County doctor has been arrested on suspicion of illegally selling powerful opioids to a man who is suspected in a DUI crash that killed a Costa Mesa fire captain, as well as selling powerful narcotics to five people who went on to fatally overdose, local officials with the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, faces federal charges and two counts of illegally distributing oxycodone and issuing prescriptions for controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, the doctor, who owns Irvine Village Urgent Care, was selling prescriptions to “patients” who were drug addicts and/or were selling the drugs on the black market. Also, at least five people who received and filled prescriptions from Pham died of drug overdoses from 2014 through 2017, the affidavit stated.

Federal authorities also contend that Pham sent a text message expressing concern that Borderline Bar and Grill mass killer David Ian Long had prescription drugs in his possession that Pham had prescribed for someone else.

Stephen Taylor Scarpa, 25, of Mission Viejo, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 44-year-old Costa Mesa fire Capt. Mike Kreza, was allegedly high on drugs from Pham at the time of the deadly collision on Nov. 3. Prescription bottles with Pham’s name on them were found in Scarpa’s van after the collision, according to a DEA affidavit.

The doctor would charge between $100 and $150 per office visit to the clinic he owned. Between 2013 and September 2018, Pham deposited over $5 million in cash, into bank accounts held by him and his wife. He also approximately deposited $1.7 million into business bank accounts that investigators suspect came from insurance payments.

A CVS pharmacy stopped accepting prescriptions from Pham more than five years ago after the pharmacy could not justify the number of opioid pills the doctor was prescribing, the Justice Department release states.

Pham made his first federal court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Santa Ana and faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison if convicted.

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Planning Commissioner Arrested for DUI

A grey Tesla Model S was found driving Highway 101 early Friday morning around 3:40am. The car was going about 70 miles per hour when noticed by CHP officers. The officers noticed that the driver seemed to be slumped over and possibly asleep. Their attempts to get the driver’s attention failed, prompting a different patrol car to get in front of the Tesla in an effort to hopefully engage the driver assist function and stop the car. Their maneuver was successful, and the officers were able to stop the vehicle and get to the driver. According to Officer Art Montiel of the CHP, “Officers went up to the driver’s side and tried to wake up the driver. It took a while to wake him up.” The officers then placed him in a patrol car and one of the officers drove the Tesla to a nearby gas station. At the gas station, field sobriety tests were conducted, including a breathalyzer, and the driver was identified as Alexander Samek of Los Altos. Samek was then booked at San Mateo county jail for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Samek is a local real estate developer who is also a member of the Los Altos Planning Commission. He posted bail on the same day of his booking, but any effect of the arrest on his seat on the commission is yet to be determined.

Although it is not the first time that the CHP has arrested someone on the suspicion of DUI in a self driving vehicle, it is the first time that they have employed the strategy of utilizing the car’s automatic stopping system.
The repeat occurrence of DUI arrests of drivers who have activated the self driving mode raises the issue again of who is responsible? Is it the driver? Or the company that created the self-driving system?

It is true that being able to utilize the self driving function of these cars are a benefit in such cases where the driver may be incapable of making that drive, such as being drunk. As such, why shouldn’t we be able to use the function when we’ve had one too many glasses of wine at dinner and feel that we are protecting ourselves from being a public safety hazard? We are being responsible adults and recognizing that the self-driving function is in actuality the safer driver, who hasn’t been drinking, are we not?

Consider for a moment that the driver in this case was unconscious and woke up only after multiple attempts by the officers to wake him after the car came to a complete stop. Had there been any need for the driver to take over for the system, this driver would not have been capable of doing so. If there is no driver response, is the system still capable of making the algorithm selection that will maneuver the car safely? Probably, but possibly not for all scenarios.

The driving system is yet to be perfected and it is hard to determine if the speed of the progression of the technology would truly change the speed at which the government considers the changes that need to be made to driving laws. An article about Australia’s National Transport Commission believing that drinking or doing drugs in driverless cars should be legal was mentioned by several media outlets in late 2017, however, no major step has been taken by any of the government agencies to face this growing question. At the moment, it is still possible for a person to be arrested for a DUI when utilizing a self-driving vehicle, even though on the surface, they look to have done the safe thing and not done the driving themselves.

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New Road Laws for 2019 in California

Several new road laws will take effect on January 1, 2019 and they are designed to make California roads safer. Here’s a look at the news laws and changes that will be made:

Starting January 1, 2019 until January 1, 2026, repeat DUI offenders and first time DUI offenders whose violations have caused injury must install an ignition interlock device for anywhere from 12 to 48 months. The law allows anyone who receives a suspension to get a device and receive credit toward the required device restriction period if they’re later convicted of a DUI.

The restrictions apply to DUI violations that involve alcohol or alcohol and drug combinations. Courts also have the chance to order first-time DUI offenders who didn’t cause injury to install a device for up to six months. If the device is not court-ordered for the first-time offender, then they have the option to apply for a license and get a device requiring them to drive to work and to and from a DUI treatment program for 12 months.

Temporary license plates
Licensed California dealers of new and used vehicles must attach temporary license plates to a vehicle once it’s sold if the vehicle doesn’t have any previous DMV-issued plates. The temporary plates have a unique number and expiration date, and vehicles cannot be driving off a dealership lot without the temporary plates.

Carpool lanes
Assembly Bill 544 created a new program that allowed low-emission and transitional zero-emission vehicles access to carpool lanes for a four-year period regardless of how many people were in the vehicle. A green or white decal that was placed on those vehicles is valid until Jan. 1, 2019, and after that those vehicles will no longer have access to HOV lanes.

But any vehicle that has a green or white decal that was issued between Jan. 1, 2017 and March 1, 2018 can apply for a red decal that allows access in carpool lanes until Jan. 1, 2022. The DMV should have notified customers of that eligibility by mail.

The department will also issue light purple decals in 2019 that will give people access to HOV lanes until Jan. 1, 2023. Those decals are available to people who have not applied for or received a consumer rebate for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project unless they meet annual income requirements.

Smog check changes
Vehicles that are eight model years old are now exempt from requiring a smog check compared to the previous law that exempted vehicles at six years. But vehicles that have those additional two years of exemption will have to pay a $25 yearly smog abatement fee. Also, the current $20 smog abatement fee for the first six years of exemption remains unchanged.

Driving for minors
The law repeals a juvenile court’s authority to suspend, restrict or delay the issuance of a drivers license of a habitual truant or ward of the state for up to one year. The law clarifies that any suspensions or delays reported prior to January 1, 2019, remain in effect.

Helmet restrictions
If you’re under 18 and not wearing a helmet on a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or skates then you might get a fix-it ticket. That citation can be fixed within 120 days of receiving it if the minor shows the law enforcement agency that they’ve completed a bicycle safety course and have a helmet that meets safety standards.

But anyone age 18 or over is no longer required to wear a bicycle helmet on motorized scooters.

Unsafe, unsecured loads on vehicles
The law requires the DMV to include at least one question addressing laws on driving with an unsafe, unsecured load in at least 20 percent of the knowledge tests.

The DMV is also reminding drivers of low-emission and transitional zero-emission vehicles that their green or white decals granting them access to HOV lanes expires January 1, 2019. Vehicles issued a green or white decal between January 1, 2017 and March 1, 2018 are eligible to apply for a red decal that grants them access to HOV lanes through January 1, 2022. The DMV plans to issue light purple decals in 2019 that will grant access to HOV lanes through January 1, 2023. Those eligible include drivers who haven’t applied for or received a consumer rebate pursuant to the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, unless they meet annual income requirements.

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An Upgrade from Beer Goggles

For those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s, imagine flashing back to grade school and high school, when the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse and Resistance Education) program reached out to local schools in the district to educate children about the effects of drugs and alcohol. Local law enforcement came into the classrooms and shared details with the class about the drug-induced arrests that they came across and showed us experiments like the glass lung that showed the amount of tar that results from smoking a single cigarette, or the favorite, the beer goggles.

The beer goggles were created to mimic the effects of alcohol on a person, including but not limited to blurred vision, limited peripheral vision, and impaired reflexes. As children we enjoyed watching our volunteer peers struggle to overcome the impairments that came with the goggles in order to correctly and “soberly” follow the officer’s directions of the various field sobriety tests.

Fast forward to today—Ford developed impaired driving suits to simulate the effects of being under the influence by restricting movement, impairing vision and throwing off your balance. The suit is equipped with ankle weights to throw off your balance, bandages on the knee, elbow, and neck to restrict movement, tunnel vision glasses, and earmuffs to delay reaction time. While the D.A.R.E. program in schools didn’t have the results that legislation was aiming for, Ford continues to reach out with its Ford Driving Skills for Life tour.

According to Ford’s website, “The premise behind Ford Driving Skills for Life is to provide a step in the learning process that teaches skills beyond what most new drivers learn in basic driver’s education courses. The program’s curriculum focuses on vehicle handling, hazard recognition, and speed and space management, which account for 60 percent of all crashes.” This year the program will make various stops in states such as Alabama, Arizona, California, and more, hoping to teach young drivers the dangers of driving under the influence of a variety of drugs, both legal and illegal.

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