Monday, November 3, 2008

Life in Jail for second deadly California DUI conviction?

California DUI criminal defense attorneys at report man with a long criminal record for drinking and driving may never be behind the wheel again, following his recent conviction in Merced County Superior Court.

Ralph Gonzales, 54, was convicted by a Merced County jury Thursday of driving under the influence of alcohol. Gonzales' criminal background already includes convictions for killing two people in vehicle collisions, in two separate incidents, according to information received from Merced County Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby.

Gonzales, who was convicted under the state's three strikes law, now faces 28-years-to-life behind bars, Colby said. His recent conviction stems from a July arrest by the California Highway Patrol on Highway 152. Officers took Gonzales, who was driving a black Mercedes, into custody after he was observed weaving on the roadway above the speed limit. He failed a field sobriety test and had a blood alcohol concentration between 0.177 and 0.187 percent, Colby said.

The legal limit in California is 0.08 percent.

Colby said Gonzales was frequently paroled from prison -- only to commit more crimes months later. "Mr. Gonzales leaves a trail of devastation and death behind him, and for someone to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated after having killed behind the wheel twice is incomprehensible," he said.

His criminal past includes seven prior felonies, according to the Merced County District Attorney's Office. For example, he was convicted of gross vehicular homicide in 1985 for killing 17-year-old Jose Luis Perez in Shafter.

Colby said Gonzales fled law enforcement in a stolen Camaro and ran a red light, striking Perez's car, killing him. Gonzales fled the collision on-foot and was later captured by law enforcement. Officers discovered that Gonzales had been drinking, Colby said.

In addition, Gonzales was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in 1992 for the death of 22-year-old Mary Ellen Rios in San Jose. He drove into oncoming traffic and struck Rios' car, killing her and seriously injuring three passengers, in addition a passenger in his car, Colby said.

He was convicted in 1979 for robbery, first degree burglary, and assault with great bodily injury after he burglarized and beat a 93-year-old San Martin man.

Gonzales is scheduled to be sentenced by Merced Superior Court later this month, according to California DUI criminal defense lawyers at