A young Milpitas, California, man accused of taking the life of another motorist pleaded no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter last week, essentially accepting responsibility for his role in the accident. Although he didn't express remorse or go into the details of the accident, he did admit to inflicting fatal injuries on the victim. This admission could affect the outcome of any civil court proceedings brought by the victim's family.
The accident happened the morning of Aug. 3 on a road with a speed limit of 35 mph. Milpitas police reported that the 24-year-old man who caused the crash was traveling at least 49 mph in his Volvo SUV. He was apparently on his way home from San Jose after a night of drinking and partying. But according to authorities, he hadn't sobered up by the time he collided head-on with another vehicle.
The crash sent both vehicles off the road and into an adjacent park. The car struck a tree after colliding with the SUV, causing massive injuries to the 65-year-old driver. He was rushed to a San Jose hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the SUV, who didn't suffer any serious injuries, took a blood alcohol test that registered at .233 percent, nearly three times over the legal driving limit. Another breath test later that day registered at .229.
If the young SUV driver does have any remorse for drinking and driving, he'll be able to express it at his sentencing hearing in March, at which he could be sentenced to anywhere from four to 10 years in prison. The victim's family will also have the opportunity to testify, which could have an effect on the length of the sentence. But if they hope to gain any financial compensation for their loss, they'll need to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. The driver's criminal conviction doesn't guarantee a successful case, but it may increase the plaintiffs' chances of a settlement.
Source: Mercury News, "DUI driver enters plea: no contest," Ian Bauer, Jan. 2, 2013
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