As if the freeways in Southern California weren't dangerous enough, sometimes you don't even have to be on the road to be injured or killed by a drunk driver. On Dec. 29, a 60-year old Mission Viejo man was killed in his bed when a driver allegedly ran his Cadillac into the house. According to authorities, the driver, whom they say was under the influence of alcohol, was driving at more than twice the posted speed limit: 50-plus mph in a 25-mph zone. The car came to rest with its back tires off the ground. In addition to killing one occupant of the home, the crash cut a gas line. Another man in the home at the time was unhurt.
The 27-year-old driver, who also lives in Mission Viejo, has been booked for "felony drunken driving with a prior conviction." Orange County sheriff's deputies reported that he appeared to be intoxicated at the scene and did badly on a sobriety test. His bail has been set at $1 million. If he is convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Neither he nor the passenger in his car was seriously injured.
The driver has a history with drunk driving charges. In 2010, he was convicted of DUI. He was sentenced to three years "informal probation," which ended this fall. He also had to pay fines and attend an alcohol program. He is also facing DUI-related charges stemming from another arrest this past June. He is alleged to have been at nearly twice the legal blood alcohol limit. He has not yet faced trial for that case.
Many people believe that the criminal penalties for drunk driving-related car accidents are not harsh enough unless they result in a fatality. Clearly, if the facts are as prosecutors allege, this man had no business behind the wheel. It's unfortunate that it sometimes takes the death of an innocent victim before a drunk driver spends any time behind bars. Regardless of the criminal penalties a drunk driver faces, victims or their loved ones can and should seek damages to help them cover medical costs, burial, and lost wages so that they don't have to suffer financially even as they are suffering emotionally and physically from the harm caused by a drunk driver.
Source: CBS Los Angeles, "Driver Who Allegedly Crashed Into Mission Viejo House, Killing 1, Had Previous DUI Conviction" No author given, Dec. 30, 2013