Archive for January 28th, 2007

MADD: Murder for DUI

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

I ran across this news story just a few hours after writing the post yesterday The Death Penalty for DUI?:

MADD Asks for Murder Charge for DUI Suspect

Daily Bulletin, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.  Jan. 27  -  The San Bernardino County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said Thursday it will lobby the district attorney to file a murder charge against a suspected drunken driver accused of killing a father-to-be.

Prosecutors charged Jose Ramon Verdin with drunken driving, vehicular manslaughter and other crimes Tuesday in connection with the death of 33-year-old Ralph Napravnik… "It sounds like he could have prevented this fatality," MADD representative Joseph Alarcon said. "He could have chosen not to drink and drive, and a father would be alive today."

Napravnik was riding his motorcycle near his Ontario home on Saturday when he collided with a Cadillac driven by Verdin, police said.  His blood alcohol was 0.11 percent about four hours after the collision, authorities said. The legal limit is 0.08.

California passed a law in 2004 requiring that drunken drivers be notified in writing of the dangers of their conduct when they plead guilty to charges in court.  The idea is that if they subsequently kill someone while driving drunk, they cannot argue they did not know their conduct is inherently dangerous to human life, making it much easier for prosecutors to charge and convict them for murder. Verdin signed such paperwork when he pleaded guilty in 2005 to his first DUI, court records show…

Deputy District Attorney Charles Feibush said he has not ruled out filing a murder count, but such a weighty decision will not be made until prosecutors have a full set of reports on the crash from the California Highway Patrol. Alarcon, who learned of Verdin's case on Thursday, said it appears to be exactly the sort of case legislators envisioned when they passed the law requiring the language on the court paperwork. "That bill has blood on it," he said. "People had to die for that language to be included on the plea agreement forms."

California's drunken driving laws are terribly complex, filling more than 40 pages in the state's vehicle code.

In other words, this guy may be facing murder charges rather than manslaughter because he signed a document acknowledging the obvious – that drunk driving is dangerous.  No signature, no murder.  And that's our criminal justice system at work.

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