Although the actual accident took place a few years ago, a driver recently entered a no contest plea before a California criminal court in reference to a 2012 pedestrian accident. The pedestrian accident left a Chico State University student severely injured. Tragically, drugs and alcohol played a role in this preventable incident.
After the incident, the driver was charged with a felony DUI (with an enhancement occasioned by the victim’s brain injury) and other charges related to the injuries suffered by the pedestrian. To prove the felony charge, prosecutors were required to establish that the driver was guilty of violating a separate traffic law (or was acting negligently). They found it challenging to do so in light of a police investigation that concluded the driver was not speeding at the time of the crash.
The tragic California accident occurred when the driver struck a pedestrian who was walking home after a night spent at various bars in the Butte County area. The pedestrian was left with extensive and traumatic injuries, including head injuries and other broken bones. After the driver was arrested, he was found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .09 percent. The driver was under the legal drinking age of 21, and California does not permit minors to drink and drive. The pedestrian was found to have a BAC of .25 percent.
By entering a no contest plea to a misdemeanor DUI, the driver admitted that prosecutors would likely be able to prove that charge were a trail to occur. Presumably, prosecutors offered a plea bargain because they were unsure if they would be able to prove the felony DUI charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Formal sentencing has been scheduled for the second week in July.
Despite the perceived setbacks in the prosecution’s case, the injured victim has the separate right to pursue a claim for monetary damages in civil court as a result of the pedestrian accident. While the misdemeanor criminal conviction may bolster any related civil litigation, it will still be necessary to prove the driver was negligent in a manner that caused or substantially contributed to the tragic crash. Fortunately, the burden of proof in a civil courtroom is less severe than in criminal court, and the victim’s counsel will have every reasonable opportunity to establish liability and — if successful — pursue claims for specific items of damages under California law.
Source: chicoer.com, “Defendant pleads no contest to misdemeanor DUI for 2012 incident”, Ryan Olson, May 14, 2014