Esmeralda Ramirez, 24, was killed in a Los Angeles car accident involving a suspected drunk driver, the afternoon of August 14, 2011. According to news reports, the fatal DUI collision occurred at the intersection of Stewart Avenue and Baldwin Park Boulevard in Baldwin Park. The woman was walking with her boyfriend to church, when a 2005 Jeep Laredo driven by 27-year-old Rafael Espinoza Moreno went out of control and struck Ramirez. The Jeep then crashed into a bus bench and another building.
Moreno fled the scene of the crash, but was soon found by officials a couple of blocks away, hiding in bushes. Moreno’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the limit of 0.08 percent when he was tested after the crash. Police say he has never had a valid driver’s license and has received prior citations for speeding and driving without a license. He now faces drunk driving, hit-and-run, and vehicular manslaughter charges.
My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Ramirez for their tragic and heartbreaking loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.
According to California Highway Patrol’s 2009 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there were no fatalities, but 21 injuries reported due to alcohol-related crashes in Baldwin Park. During that same year, 204 fatalities and 4,672 injuries occurred as a result of Los Angeles County DUI collisions.
Violation of Several Laws
Based on this news report, Moreno was not only driving without a valid license, but was also driving with a blood alcohol concentration of more than twice the legal limit. In addition, he left the fatally injured victim lying on the roadway and fled the scene. Outrageous! Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal under California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a).
A driver whose act of driving under the influence results in the death of another will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges. California Penal Code Section 191.5 (a) states: “Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.”
Leaving the scene of an injury accident, in addition to being inhumane and irresponsible, is also illegal under California Vehicle Code Section 20001 (a). I’m relieved to hear that officials apprehended this repeat offender and trust he will be brought to justice.
The family of a victim killed in a DUI crash may pursue financial compensation for their loss by filing a wrongful death claim. A successful civil lawsuit can result in compensation for damages including medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost future wages. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will also be able to advise families about how their own car insurance policy applies to a case where the at-fault motorist is uninsured or underinsured. For more information about the dangers of driving under the influence, please visit the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) web site at www.madd.org.