A Santa Ana man who had two previous DUI convictions has been charged with second-degree murder for allegedly plowing into a family of four in Irvine killing Jeongmi Choi, 44, and injuring her husband and their two children, 18 and 15. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the family was walking on a sidewalk near Turtle Rock Drive the night of May 16 when 37-year-old Kamal Akwette Attoh swerved off the road and hit them with his 2012 BMW sedan. Choi was killed. Her husband suffered a ruptured spleen and other serious internal injuries. Her 18-year-old son suffered a broken nose and other injuries while her 15-year-old daughter needed stitches.
Murder Charges in DUI Case
Officials said Attoh was charged with murder because he has two prior drunk driving convictions, one in 2001 in Orange County and another in 2002 in Ventura County. He has also been charged with three counts of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more. He faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted. Police said Attoh’s blood alcohol concentration was at least three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Choi who have not only suffered a tragic loss, but are coping with injuries suffered in this horrific crash. We offer our deepest condolences and with these injured victims the very best for a speedy and complete recovery.
Laws and Liability Issues
Based on this news report, it appears that the driver of the BMW was under the influence at the time. California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a) states that it is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. It is also against the law to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher. When a death is caused by the actions of a suspected drunk driver, he or she could face vehicular manslaughter charges. However, those charges could be elevated to murder if the driver has had prior drunken driving convictions, as in this case.
In such cases, in addition to facing criminal charges, DUI drivers can also be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses they cause. Injured victims can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation costs and pain and suffering.
Families of deceased victims can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for losses such as medical and funeral expenses, lost future income and loss of love and companionship. Victims and families would be well advised to contact an experienced Irvine DUI victims’ lawyer who will fight for their rights and protect their best interests.