In California, 2,500 people are killed each year by drunk drivers. This number is approximately 25,000 in the entire United States.
Rien Ban, a 45-year-old resident of Fresno California, got sentenced last Thursday to 60 years to life in prison for a drunk-driving accident in 2014.
The crash took place between the city of Kerman and the city of Mendota, on Highway 180 near Fresno, California in June 2014. At the time of the accident, Ban Rien was trying to overrun a slow-moving vehicle while driving east in his Mercedes SUV. According to the CHP report, Rien Ban was intoxicated when he caused a head-on collision that took a life of 4 people. His vehicle ran into a KIA Sedan and instantly killed 3 passengers. Belkys Quezada, 25, died right away together with her nephews: Lisandro Rodriguez, 10, and Danny Rodriguez, 7. Sinoeun Uong a 37-year-old Mercedes occupant, also died in the accident. Suyapa Rodriguez Quezada, 37, a driver of KIA suffered serious injuries but survived.
The Rodriguezes and Quezada were on their way home when they were killed in the crash. The parents of Danny and Lisandro mourne the tragedy asking the judge to sentence the defendant “justly” for the murder of their children.
A blood alcohol test showed that 2 hours after the accident Ban’s BAC was three times over the legal limit of .08% BAC. The evidence showed that Mr. Ban drove after consuming a great deal of alcohol. Mr. Ban also was convicted of DUIs on prior occasions. After each of the prior offenses, Mr. Ban attended mandatory alcohol education classless. The prosecutor argued that Mr. Ban knew the risk of drinking and driving and the potential consequences of such dangerous conduct. As part of his previous DUI convictions, Mr. Ban was told that if he killed someone while driving intoxicated, he could be charged with murder. This is known as “Watson admonition” and is required on all DUI convictions. The prosecutor argued that Ban was aware of the danger of death to other motorists if he continues to drive while impaired.
Because of Ban’s criminal record, Mr. Ban was tried for second-degree murder instead of gross vehicular manslaughter, a charge used when a person kills someone in a DUI accident but does not have prior DUI convictions on his or her record. The trial judge was Fresco County Superior Judge Honorable Conklin A second-degree murder prosecution in a DUI context is based on the actions of the defendant that exhibited implied malice. This is because a person who is told how dangerous can a DUI be and continues to drink and drive acts with implied malice, a requirement in a 2nd-degree murder prosecution. Many intoxicated drivers avoid murder prosecution even when someone dies because there is no evidence they were informed of how dangerous DUI can be and that it can result in death. Instead, such persons in Los Angeles County are often charged with vehicular manslaughter. In order to charge a person with murder, California law requires the prosecutor to prove that the defendant meant to create the circumstances that resulted in the killing of another human being and showed a reckless disregard for human life. When a case doesn’t involve malice aforethought, most likely the prosecutor will pursue manslaughter charges. Manslaughter is an unlawful killing with no malice aforethought. Albeit it’s also a serious crime, the punishment does not involve life in prison. For more information about the penalties for drunk drivers check our page on Penalties for Drunk Driving.
After the trial, the jury found Mr. Ban guilty of all four counts of second-degree murder. At sentencing and the judge imposed a mandatory sentence of 60 years to life in jail. Mr. Ban’s defense lawyer attempted to mitigate his punishment by referring to the horrifying facts of his childhood and his post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the judge was not convinced and imposed the maximum punishment of 60 years to life which is a consecutive term of 15 years to life for each person killed by Mr. Ban.
The Superior Court Judge was on the brink of tears when he said to the drunk driver: “You murdered four people”.
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