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San Diego Drunk Driver Will Not See Prison for Serious Crash

Craig McClellan

A San Diego Superior Court judge sentenced a driver who crashed into an 18-year-old girl's car, causing her serious injuries, to one year in a work-release program, rather than the much longer prison sentence the man potentially could have served. The drunk driving accident occurred on August 20, 2011, and the victim spent significant time in the hospital afterward.

The man slammed into the rear of the girl's car while she was stopped, waiting to make a left turn at about 10 p.m. The girl suffered broken ribs, a lacerated liver, and a hematoma as a result of the crash. She was also on a ventilator for two days in the hospital. She continues to suffer daily migraine headaches and reports having no memory of one month prior to and one month after the crash took place.

When authorities responded to the scene of the accident, the driver was disoriented, slurring his speech and smelled of alcohol. When police tested the man's blood alcohol concentration and hour and a half after the crash, it registered 0.36 - more than four times the legal limit.

Despite the severity of the victim's injuries, the judge sentenced the driver to one year of work release, rather than the five years in prison the prosecutor asked for, for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons the judge cited was the driver's ability to pay restitution to the victim if he was allowed to go to work during the day and return to jail at night.

The injuries the girl suffered demonstrate how destructive drunk driving accidents can be. Drunk driving victims suffer losses that criminal courts often do not address. Many seek to recover for such things as medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering by bringing personal injury suits against the driver who chose to drink and drive. Money cannot fully compensate them for what they went through, but it can make their situations less stressful.

Source: Fox 5 San Diego, "Drunk driver avoids prison for serious injury crash," Heidi Wise and Brian LaRose, Feb. 17, 2012.