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Guilty Plea in Tragic DUI Manslaughter Case
In August of last year, an accident occurred in Chula Vista which represented, among other things, every parent’s nightmare. Arlene Hernandez was at the wheel, with her 5-year old daughter and her daughter’s friend in the backseat, and the friend’s father in the passenger seat. Hernandez lost control of the car, which went off the road, then crossed back over the road, ultimately going over an embankment. At that point, the car plunged into a reservoir, ending up on its roof, winding up submerged in water. Despite rescue efforts, both of the girls were killed.
Police say that Hernandez and the other girl’s father had brought their children to the park earlier in the day, during which time the two adults allegedly each drank three beers. At about 6:00 p.m., they decided to take the girls to watch skydivers. The accident occurred on the way to the skydiving port.
Hernandez originally pled not guilty to the charges against her, which included gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, child abuse, and DUI causing injury. These were obviously very serious charges. While DUI causing injury is a wobbler (chargeable as a misdemeanor or a felony), gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony (imprisonment for 4, 6, or 10 years). The child abuse charge was also filed as a felony (2, 4 or 6 years). The gross vehicular manslaughter charge was apparently the result of the mother having a BAC of 0.13, well over the legal limit of 0.08.
In exchange for the dropping of the gross vehicular manslaughter and child abuse charges, Hernandez pled guilty last week to two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, as well as DUI causing injury. Although she could still be sentenced to as much as 12 years in prison on the guilty pleas, Hernandez could also receive a lighter sentence.
However you look at it, this case is tragic, and the sentencing is only one aspect. It addition to the loss of the lives of two young children, there is the effect on their families, including two parents who had a role in contributing to the result.
Law Offices of David Shapiro
3555 4th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103