Following a fatal car accident during a police chase in Westminster last Friday, a man has been charged with second-degree murder.
The victim, a 12-year-old girl, was a passenger in her family's minivan when the vehicle was struck by the defendant's vehicle. Her mother and brother were hospitalized but are expected to recover. According to the police, the man was wanted on suspicion of drug trafficking and a weapons violation when he refused to pull over. In fleeing, he rammed a police car and then sped away, which initiated the chase. After about two minutes, the defendant crashed into two other vehicles, one of which was the minivan carrying the victim and her mother and brother.
Facing murder charges after an auto accident is a rare situation, but in this case, the circumstances surrounding the collision resulted in such an extreme charge. The prosecutor in the case cited "implied malice" resulting from the defendant's alleged knowing exposure of others to death or great bodily injury.
The defendant not only faces second-degree murder charges but has also been charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer in conjunction with allegedly hitting a police car with his vehicle.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon: California Penal Code § 245
A motor vehicle can be considered a "deadly weapon" under California law, and a person who is accused of intentionally attempting to harm another person with a motor vehicle may, therefore, face assault with deadly weapon charge under California Penal Code § 245. The penalties for this charge are escalated if the intended victim is a law enforcement officer. This felony offense is punishable by up to three, four or five years in state prison. It is also considered a "strike" on a defendant's record, pursuant to California's three-strikes law.
Second Degree Murder: California Penal Code § 187
Under California Penal Code § 187, a person may face second-degree murder charges for accidental death, depending on his or her conduct and intentions. The man in the case discussed above is facing second-degree murder charges because of his alleged knowing commission of an act that endangered the life and limb of others while evading the police.
Second-degree murder is a felony punishable by 15 years to life in prison, though certain circumstances may influence the sentence that this defendant faces. This offense is also classified as a violent felony, which would count as a strike on a defendant's record.
In this case, if the defendant is convicted of both assault with a deadly weapon and second-degree murder, he may face a lengthy prison sentence and also two strikes on his record, which would place him at risk of life imprisonment if he is convicted of another violent or serious felony in the future.
The Importance of Immediate Defense Counsel
With any criminal charges, the importance of immediate legal counsel cannot be stressed enough. At the Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman, we provide criminal defense representation to clients in the Orange County area of California. Whether you have been accused of a serious and violent felony offense like murder or are dealing with a misdemeanor charge for a first DUI(driving under the influence) offense, you need a professional to protect your constitutional rights and interests to the fullest extent.
It is never too early to involve a criminal defense attorney who can challenge physical evidence, witness testimony and other information or evidence that has been brought against you. Even if formal charges have not yet been filed, a competent attorney may be able to work to avoid such charges in the first place. You can learn more and can discuss your unique case with a knowledgeable professional by calling our offices - contact us today!