Friday, February 27, 2009

District Attorney's Son enters Not Guilty Plea to California DUI charges allegedly resulting in drunk driving death

California DUI criminal defense attorneys and California drunk driving criminal defense lawyers at are told it has been almost two weeks since 25-year-old Vanessa King was in a car wreck that killed her friend Alexander Ruiz, but the grim reminders of that terrible day remain.

Case in point: Her arm's still in a sling from wounds suffered during that crash.

King and members of Ruiz's family were among those who watched in court Thursday as 18-year-old Dylan Morse entered his plea on charges of causing that crash: not guilty.

California Highway Patrol investigators believe Morse was drunk the night his 1998 Volvo broadsided a 1988 Honda driven by Ruiz. Ruiz was killed in the Feb. 14 crash, while his passenger, King, suffered a broken arm and other injuries.

Ryne Spitzer, the 19-year-old Sonoma State University student who was the passenger in Morse's car, is in fair condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to Katy Hillenmeyer, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Wearing a somber frown, Morse, the son of Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II, stood silently in court Thursday as his attorney, Chris Andrian, entered the plea.

During the hearing, Andrian had asked Judge Elliot Lee Daum for additional time to enter a plea, saying that he wanted to review more evidence in the case. Daum denied Andrian's request, saying that Morse must enter his plea.

Andrian said he still has to review a recorded interview between Morse and California Highway Patrol investigators, conducted after the crash.

"This is a very painful situation," Andrian said. "And it's going to take some time."

King and Ruiz's father, Michael Ruiz, left quietly after the hearing and declined comment.

Cindy Morse, the defendant's mother, sat in the audience with Jeff Leis, pastor of Yosemite Church in Merced. She said her son remains "devastated" about the collision, adding that she hopes the case will be resolved "as early as possible," particularly for the sake of the victims' families. "There's a lot of healing that needs to go on for everyone," she said.

Leis said his son, 19-year-old Kyle, has also been deeply affected by the tragedy. Kyle shared a dorm room with Spitzer at Sonoma State.

"He's at the hospital praying every day," Leis said.

Larry Morse wasn't in court Thursday. Over the phone, he said his thoughts continue to be with the victims and their families.

"As nightmarish as this has been for us, we are aware that this has been incalculably worse for the Spitzer and Ruiz families," Morse said. He added that "(Dylan), as well as we, will accept whatever consequences come his way."

CHP investigators reported that the collision happened at 2:20 a.m. at the intersection of Stony Point Road and Highway 116 near Cotati.

Dylan Morse was driving southbound on Stony Point Road and passed through a red light, the CHP reported. He collided with Ruiz's car, according to the CHP, and the impact sent both cars into a nearby field.

Ruiz, an Oakland resident, was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, King, suffered facial lacerations, a broken arm and a broken collar bone.

Spitzer, the passenger in Dylan Morse's car, was injured with major head trauma. Morse wasn't injured.

Dylan Morse is charged with felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another person and causing bodily injury while driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent. He's also being charged on suspicion of having a fake driver's license and being a minor with alcohol in his car, which are misdemeanors.

He faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted of the charges. He remains at the Sonoma County Jail in lieu of $180,000 bail.

Dylan Morse's next court appearance is scheduled for March 6.

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What you must do within 10 days of being arrested

10. If you need to save your driver's license or privileges, your attorney has only ten (10) calendar days to contact DMV!

Do not schedule yourself. If you contact DMV to schedule a date conflicting with your attorney's calendar, DMV will not reschedule and you may not get the attorney of your choice. There is no rush as long as your attorney contacts DMV by the 10th day from your arrest.

9. The ten (10) day time limit is computed from the Issue date of the SUSPENSION/REVOCATION ORDER AND TEMPORARY DRIVER LICENSE. If time is running out or you are late, contact an attorney ASAP.


7. Even if you did not receive this DMV paper, the California DMV will probably take action against your driving privileges.

6. Even if you have a license from another state, and even if the officer did not take your license, that state may also take action against your driving privileges.

5. This TEMPORARY DRIVER LICENSE ENDORSEMENT is valid for only thirty (30) days from the issue date.

If a DMV hearing is requested within ten (10) days, your DMV TEMPORARY will be extended & there will be a stay (delay) of any suspension until the outcome of your DMV hearing is determined.

4. Do not confuse this initial 30 day TEMPORARY DRIVER LICENSE with your court date!

The DMV and criminal proceedings are separate and independent. The outcome of one almost never affects the other. Sometimes the officer or the DMV paper confuses or misleads you to believe that the TEMPORARY DRIVER LICENSE is good "until the court date". If there are approximately thirty (30) days from your arrest date to your court date, this may just be a dangerous coincidence. There usually are months before your DMV hearing takes place.

3. There are three (3) issues at the hearing if you completed a chemical test. (See reverse side of DMV paper.)

Issues are whether the officer had probable cause to stop or contact you or whether the chemical test evidence is beatable.

2. The DMV has the burden of proof to prevail on all three (3) issues. If DMV meets the burden of proof on two (2) issues, you win!

1. All a DMV attorney has to do is knock out one (1) DMV issue to save your license & you avoid any reissue fee and/or Proof of Insurance SR-22 filing!

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