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Not Guilty Plea Entered for Man in Fatal DUI Crash
Nicholas Ramirez pleaded not guilty to all charges, including first-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter in the Chula Vista fatal crash case, according to NBC 7 San Diego. Ramirez, who has an extensive prior history of DUI, allegedly fatally wounded a homeless man while fleeing the scene of other collisions in a bar’s parking lot. Due to the nature of the crime, his bail is set at two million dollars.
The victim of the accident was William Gerling, a homeless man resting on a bus stop bench at the time of the crash. The vehicle’s impact severed his leg, and he was pronounced dead soon after at the hospital as a result of his injuries. Hit and run charges stem from low-level collisions that took place in the parking lot immediately after Ramirez left the bar and did not injure anyone. It is then alleged by witnesses that Ramirez returned to the scene of his collisions, and when confronted about the damage, drove off speedily again only to lose control of his vehicle and crash into the bus stop bench.
Officers on the scene at the time of the arrest only estimated his high blood alcohol level, and the Deputy District Attorney confirmed that the exact results were unknown. While this lack of an important piece of evidence is beneficial to the defense, Ramirez’s lengthy DUI history and the circumstances will do him no favors in this case. Post-arrest test results may still be in process based on the recency of the case. The Chula Vista Police Department reported that the man had a suspicion of DUI arrest four other times, with two resulting in a conviction. On the list of charges Ramirez is facing is:
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
- Hit and run
- First-degree murder
First Degree Murder
The most serious of the charges for the suspect, in this case, is first-degree murder. If convicted he will likely face the standard sentencing of 25 years to life on just this single charge. For any murder charge to stick, the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was committed with malice aforethought, without a lawful reason and naturally that the defendant’s action caused the death.
It is a common misconception that malice aforethought requires a desire or intent to kill or be malicious. Malice aforethought can be expressed via an intent to kill, or implied. In this situation it would be implied, referencing a reckless disregard for the life of the victim. Choosing to drive drunk despite knowing the dangers to the lives of others can easily qualify. It can be hard to argue against this knowledge with prior DUI convictions, as it would have been stressed during mandatory DUI school. If driving while intoxicated can be proven, the prosecutors may not have to try very hard to provide this base of a conviction.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Impaired
Gross vehicular manslaughter while impaired is always a felony. The “gross” portion of the charge is a reference to gross negligence. In other words the individual would have intentionally disregarded the need to be careful, aware of the potential for harm to persons to property. Ordinarily, gross vehicular manslaughter while impaired carries a stiff sentence of four to ten years in a state prison. However, California Penal Code 191.5 increases the range of sentencing for prior convictions, the Watson murder rule and serious bodily injuries for any surviving victims. Ramirez’s two prior DUI convictions effectively allow his sentencing range to be upgraded to 15 years to life if ultimately convicted.
Hit and Run
Hit and run can result in either a misdemeanor or felony charge. Based on the facts of this case, Ramirez’s hit and run charges are related to non-injurious collisions with parked cars. As such this charge is the least of his collective worries as the penalties are low. Jail time is unlikely, but in the event of this penalty you can face up to six months in county jail, as well as up to a one thousand dollar fine.
The severe nature of sentencing for the aforementioned felonies means even if the prospective first-degree murder charge fails conviction, the defendant still faces yet another possible life sentence.
The alleged suspect has seemingly shown an unwillingness to address his DUI-related struggles. From the start, all 4 DUI related arrests including convictions happened within the time span of a single year period. Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright, who was a prosecutor for Ramirez’s previous DUI had this to say, “It’s sad to me that he didn’t learn from that. And here we are, seven years later, and someone died as a result of his actions,” Bright said. Ramirez was not charged with DUI as California law prohibits punishment for both the DUI and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charges together.
Had Ramirez beat all previous DUI convictions, he could potentially be looking at a very different situation right now. For one, his vehicular manslaughter charge would result in a much lower level of sentencing overall if he was convicted. Secondly, the media would not necessarily be portraying him as the man who never learns, an uncaring repeat offender. Juries are rarely kind or sympathetic to driver’s convicted of a DUI, and the prosecution will take advantage of his sordid history. Despite having won half of his four DUI cases, his has an uphill battle ahead that can only be won with a competent lawyer well versed in both DUI and criminal law.
The importance of avoiding a DUI conviction has no better example than the case in question. In this situation, prior DUIs will now contribute to a possible life sentence, up from a normal maximum of 10 years. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney as early as possible after a DUI arrest gives you the best opportunity to put up a proper defense and win a dismissal or acquittal of your charges. Many individuals are unaware of the far-reaching, as well as expensive, lasting effects a DUI conviction may have. From expensive insurance increases to the potential for future sentencing upgrades that can cost you your freedom, DUI convictions can be quite serious.
Vik Monder is a San Diego Criminal Defense attorney well-versed in both criminal and DUI law. He has personally represented a multitude of both high-profile clients leading to their ultimate victory in court, so no case is too big. Felonious criminal cases and felony DUI cases can be crippling to your life without proper representation. Time is often short, so you will need to make a choice between the bare minimum services of a public defender, or an experienced defense attorney who will go above and beyond in his fight for you. If you are in need of assistance with your criminal or DUI related case, contact Monder Law at 619-405-0063, or visit our website San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney .