A nineteen year old woman pleaded guilty on Monday to felony hit and run and misdemeanor possession of alcohol by a minor. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.
Just after midnight on March 11, the woman, then eighteen years of age, was driving in Ocean Beach, when her vehicle apparently struck and killed a pedestrian. She admitted failing to stop, stating that she believed at the time that her car had hit a sofa that had been discarded by the side of the road. The following morning, after hearing reports of the death, the teen told her father she may have been the driver. Her father contacted an attorney, who notified the Highway Patrol, and she was taken into custody around noon. One article bears the headline “Teen pleads guilty to fatal DUI hit-run crash.” So why was the charge hit and run, and not vehicular homicide?
The essence of felony hit and run is the failure to report a motor vehicle accident which resulted, in this case, in a person’s death. Vehicular homicide, on the other hand, requires, among other things, the operation of a vehicle while committing an unlawful act, or committing a lawful act performed in an unlawful manner. The unlawful act of the woman, if vehicular homicide was at issue, would be driving with alcohol in her system. As a minor, even a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .01 would support a DUI charge.
The answer can be found in the reports of this incident. Even though the teen admitted to consuming alcohol in the evening prior to the crash, there is no mention of the amount consumed or when it was consumed, and, likely because of the time between the accident and the arrest, there was no report of breath test results, or even of a breath test having been administered. Without evidence of intoxication, or a measurable BAC sample, there is no “unlawful act” to support a conviction for vehicular homicide.
Felony hit and run nevertheless carries significant penalties, including years in prison. The judge has indicated, however, that he will consider at sentencing the possibility of some combination of incarceration and probation.
If you have been charged with DUI or a DUI-related offense, contact a San Diego DUI lawyer to protect your interests.
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San Diego, CA 92101