Woman Charged in Fatal Fullerton Crash
A woman is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence after authorities say she was responsible for an accident that tragically resulted in the deaths of three of her passengers.
Fullerton Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi knows this case is somewhat unique, as we so often hear about fatal DUI accidents or hit-and-runs. But this was a person with no prior criminal history, who was not drinking and who did not crash into another vehicle. In fact, she was returning from a church service.
The core issue that will be explored by prosecutors in this case is whether she was speeding and the rate of that speed. It is this element, they contend, that caused the defendant to lose control of the vehicle, therefore causing it to roll over and catch fire. The three passengers who died were not wearing their seat belts, and had been ejected from the vehicle.
According to media reports, the driver was taking home a group of relatives from a church service when the accident occurred. She was exiting the 5 Freeway at a reportedly high rate of speed, and lost control of her Ford Excursion on the offramp at Beach Boulevard. It was shortly after 10:15 p.m.
The SUV rolled over the guardrail and another ramp before landing in an empty parking lot. At that point, it caught fire.
A bystander rushed to the aid of those in the vehicle, and pulled the driver and a 17-year-old passenger out. Those two suffered severe injuries and had to be transported to the hospital, though they did survive.
The three passengers, between the ages of 24 and 49, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Vehicular manslaughter not involving drugs or alcohol is spelled out in California Penal Code 192(c). It's defined as when the driver of a vehicle kills another person because he or she is driving in a way that is unlawful, or driving in a way that is lawful but dangerous or knowingly causes the accident for financial gain (but not with the intent to kill someone).
In this case, prosecutors are looking at this as the defendant having caused the wreck because she was driving unlawfully, i.e., speeding. We do not know at this point from media reports exactly how fast the vehicle is alleged to have been moving, or whether there were other conditions, such as rain or fog, that may have been contributing factors to the crash.
(Another example of violation of this statute would be texting while driving.)
This charge may be filed either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and whether you have any prior criminal history.
As a felony, it carries a sentence of between 2 and 10 years in prison.
However, in this situation, charges have been filed as misdemeanors. But the penalty is still serious. The maximum penalty when charged as a misdemeanor is up to one year in jail. As this defendant is facing three separate charges, she faces up to three years behind bars.
This is a terrifying prospect for anyone, particularly someone who has never been in trouble and has already lost three people very close to her. Hiring an experienced defense attorney in this situation is not about avoiding responsibility. It's about ensuring that one is treated fairly.
Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are facing hit-and-run charges in Fullerton.