One week ago today, Los Angeles prosecutors charged a 33-year-old Pacoima woman with murder in conjunction with an April 5 accident that claimed the life of a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges at the Friday morning hearing and is set to return to on July 10 for a preliminary hearing at the Los Angeles Superior Court in Van Nuys. This hearing will be held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for her to stand trial for the crimes she has been accused of committing. The woman is facing one felony count each of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and possession of cocaine. If convicted, she may face 25 years to life in prison.
According to the prosecution, the defendant struck the LAPD officer's motorcycle from behind while the officer was stopped at a red light at Lankershim Boulevard and Saticoy Street in Sun Valley at 5:20pm on April 5, 2014. The defendant was allegedly driving a Chevy Blazer when she struck the motorcycle, crushing the officer between two vehicles. The 51-year-old veteran officer died of his injuries 4 days later.
The female driver was initially charged last month with driving under the influence (DUI) causing serious bodily injury, but her charges were amended following the officer's death. According to authorities, the woman has prior convictions for drug possession and grand theft. She was arrested on the day of the accident.
Murder Charges and Auto Accidents
The vast majority of auto accidents are entirely accidental, stemming from carelessness or negligence. Even when they stem from illegal acts, such as drunk driving, at-fault drivers do not necessarily mean to cause the collisions – they simply occurred as a result of their conduct. In spite of this, murder or vehicular manslaughter charges may be filed against drivers for "gross negligence" or illegal acts that lead to fatal collisions.
Even if she was involved in the collision as prosecutors allege, the woman in the case discussed above may not have intentionally collided with the police officer. The circumstances surrounding the accident, including the nature of her alleged conduct (including prior drug possession convictions, alleged cocaine possession and suspected DUI), however, have resulted in escalated charges. The fact that the victim was a police officer can also result in enhanced penalties, and will almost certainly increase the vigor with which law enforcement officers investigate the case. At this point, she could spend the rest of her life in prison if convicted.
When you consider how quickly a traffic collision may escalate to a criminal investigation and even murder charges, it is easy to see why you need to protect your interests. If you have been accused of causing an auto accident that left another person seriously or fatally injured, call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Lessem & Newstat immediately. Do not let a mistake dictate how you will spend the rest of your life, and do not allow yourself to be wrongfully charged with a crime you did not commit.
With more than 200 jury trials and hundreds of case dismissals beneath our belts, we at Lessem & Newstat are well-prepared to handle the most complex and serious of criminal cases. Our attorneys have more than 50 years of combined legal experience and know what it takes to protect clients in the face of murder and vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from motor vehicle accidents. For more information and a confidential consultation, call our Los Angeles offices. We represent clients across Southern California in the face of all misdemeanor and felony charges.