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.