Sentencing of Drunk Drivers Varies Based on the Crime, Previous Convictions
The punishment handed out to drunk drivers after a fatal collision will vary depending on the circumstances.
The jail sentences for convicted DUI drivers will also vary depending on what state the crime takes place in. For example, some states like Alaska provide up to 99 years in jail for a convicted drunk driver, but Oklahoma only gives up to one year in jail for the same offense.
While the victim loses their life in the collision, the maximum sentence for a Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated conviction in California between four and 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
Certain criminal acts will most likely lengthen their sentence. For example, a driver who is previously convicted of a DUI crime could face serious charges such as murder if they kill someone in a subsequent DUI crash. Also, a drunk driver faces more serious convictions if they were also carrying out criminal acts such as a hit-and-run or if they were enaged in or fleeing the scene of a crime.
Meanwhile, the victims and surviving family members of those who die in drunk driving crashes could wait for months wondering what the punishment is going to be for the suspected DUI driver.
It’s been known to take months or sometimes a year for an investigation to conclude and the suspect is convicted and then sentenced for the crime.
Here are some examples of recent sentences handed to drunk drivers in California. The numer of victims who are hurt or killed in a given crash, could extend the prison sentence for the suspect DUI driver.
9 Years in Prison — DUI Manslaughter, Hit-and-run
Matthew Chenot, 25, was sentenced to 9 years in prison after he struck and killed 70-year-old Ram Bhatia in a Fresno crosswalk in February 2019. Chenot, who was already on felony probation, was reportedly drunk and speeding when he struck the victim who died at the scene. He also fled the scene of the crash and then reported his vehicle stolen. That’s when police caught up with Chenot and found his blood-alcohol level at 0.6 some five hours after the crash. Experts estimate that he was likely at 1.5 BAC at the time of the crash. The blood test also showed metabolites for THC and cocaine. Chenot confessed to his crime, DUI manslaughter and hit-and-run causing death. He also told the court he has remorse and pledged to use the experience to mentor Native Americans like himself who struggle with addiction to alcohol and drugs.
15 years to life in prison in plea deal
Martin Raymundo Padilla Gutierrez, 39, of Patterson, pleaded no contest to drunk driving and a second degree murder charge for a violent August 9, 2016 crash on a rural road near Patterson. The suspect allegedly ran a stop sign and struck the car occupied by victims, Zenaida Mendez, 40, and Ulises Torres-Zepeda, 31, both of Patterson. The Stanislaus County judge sentenced Gutierrez to 15 to life in prison as part of a plea deal he made with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. The conviction allows Gutierrez, who had been waiting in jail for three years, to avoid a trial that was scheduled to start a month earlier.
Gutierrez, who is not a U.S. citizen, had also faced charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving without a valid driver’s license and a second count of murder, but they were dropped as part of the plea deal. Police say his injuries have rendered him unable to do manual labor and he would not be able to pay court fines and fees for the DUI. He would be deported from the U.S. if he were released from prison on parole.
30 years for deaths of six people in DUI crash
Olivia Carolee Culbreath, 26, of Fontana, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years to life in prison for causing a wrong-way crash that killed six people on the 60 Freeway in Diamond Bar. The judge, who rejected a request to impose the minimum 15-year sentence, gave her the maximum sentence. She pleaded no-contest to six counts of second-degree murder. The plea allowed her to avoid a pending trial. Culbreath, whose blood-alcohol content was .15, nearly double the legal limit, was the sole survivor of the crash and is now confined to a wheelchair. She had driven drunk at speeds of 100 mph in the wrong direction on the 60 Freeway on Feb.9, 2014. She crashed head-on into a car killing her own sister Maya, 24, and her best friend, Kristin Young, 21. She also killed a Huntington Park family, Gregorio Mejia-Martinez, 47; Leticia Ibarra, 42; Jessica Mejia, 20; Ester Delgado, 80. This was not Culbreath’s first DUI. Her first was at age 16 years old, but no one was hurt. Her license suspended for roughly 5 years. Less than one month after she got her license back at 21 years old, she killed six people in this crash.
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