Monday, July 2, 2007

DUI can be Murder in California

STOCKTON California DUI news

Luis Lua Sr. was allegedly DUI or driving drunk yet again, according to prosecutors, when he allegedly rammed into the rear of a van stopped at a North Wilson Way signal last year, killing 9-year-old Marcus Rocha.
It's not likely Lua will repeat his mistake, said San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Ford, who is prosecuting Lua under a 1996 law that carries the same 15-to-life prison sentence as those convicted of second-degree murder.
Ford said Lua, 51, is the first defendant he knows of in San Joaquin County prosecuted under Courtney's Law, named for 15-year-old Courtney Cheney of Roseville, who was killed in 1995 in an accident caused by a man with numerous drunken-driving convictions.
The law more than doubles a prison sentence for motorists convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter who have two or more previous convictions for California DUI /drunk driving or one prior conviction for vehicular manslaughter.
Lawmakers enacted the bill out of a frustration for repeat offenders who received punishment that they deemed too light, Ford said. Lua is scheduled to go to trial in August in the San Joaquin County Superior Court. He remains at the County Jail. San Joaquin County Deputy Public Defender Paul Schultz did not respond to calls seeking comment.
In the Sept. 23 accident, Marcus was in the family minivan's back seat. His mother, who drove, stopped at a red light on North Wilson Way at Newton Road, Ford said.
Lua was driving on a suspended license, and he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit. Lua had four California DUI /drunk driving convictions since the mid-1980s, making him eligible for prosecution under Courtney's Law, Ford said.
Lodi's Dale Eisner also awaits trial under a stricter law. He is accused of being drunk when he caused a fatal collision Dec. 22 on Highway 12 that killed Pierre Ackermann, 27, and left his wife, Faith Ackermann, with a mental capacity of a 4-year-old.
Eisner is charged with second-degree murder because prosecutors said he had been convicted of drunken driving six months before the fatal accident. At that time, Eisner had to sign a statement acknowledging he could be charged with murder if he caused a fatal accident while under the influence.
Franz Kegel, a spokesman for the Stockton chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, said he favors stringent punishment for drunken drivers. Kegel lost his two daughters 22 years ago to a drunken driver, who also died in the accident.
Kegel said he focuses on those survivors who have to live on in the wake of a DUI / drunken driver's fatal decision to get behind the wheel while allegedly DUI.