On August 13, 2010, another tragedy took place involving drinking and driving. A car was stopped on the shoulder of Highway 78 in Vista because one of the occupants was feeling ill. Two of the passengers got out of the vehicle, and the third remained inside. At that point, a Jeep Cherokee driven by Debbie Sumi, a mother of four, veered onto the shoulder, striking the other vehicle and the two passengers who were standing alongside it.
When the dust settled, the two women outside the vehicle were dead, along with Sumi’s passenger, who was also her fiancé and the father of her children. The remaining occupant of the stopped vehicle was injured.
Records indicate that Sumi’s blood alcohol level was over three times the legal limit. She was arrested and charged with manslaughter. She entered a plea of not guilty to the charges, and bail was set at $5 million. In setting bail, the judge stated that he found Sumi to be “an extreme danger to the community.”
Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is defined under PC 191.5, which provides:
“Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.”
This week, over two years after the crash, Sumi was convicted of three counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. She faces up to 14 years in prison. Her defense was the claim that in fact it was her fiancé who was driving. The jury rejected the claim and issued a guilty verdict. Sentencing is scheduled for January 8 of next year.
Spiegel Law Group
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San Diego, CA 92101