Friday, February 22, 2019

People v. Escarcega (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 20, 2019)

This opinion is a reminder that it's not just drunk driving that can put you in prison.  As well as seriously injure others:

"On July 15, 2015, at 9:20 p.m., defendant was driving a 2012 Hyundai Elantra eastbound on Palmdale Blvd. He was on his way to work at Adelanto Detention Facility. That stretch of road has one lane of traffic in each direction and is divided by a broken yellow line. There are no streetlights. The speed limit is 55 miles per hour.

As defendant approached 110th Street, he saw two vehicles ahead of him. Shannon Emery’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo sedan was directly in front of him. A large delivery box-truck was in front of Emery. Neither Emery nor defendant could see whether there were any cars in front of the delivery truck, which also blocked their view of any headlights from oncoming traffic. Defendant estimated he was driving 45 miles per hour at this point, but Emery testified that she was going 70 miles per hour.

Though defendant could not see beyond the truck, did not know whether there were more cars in front of it, and could not tell how much space there was between Emery and the truck, he decided to pull into the westbound lane and pass both vehicles. When defendant pulled past Emery and attempted to pass the truck, however, he discovered it was following two or three more cars. As defendant drew parallel with the delivery truck, he saw headlights coming towards him. The headlights belonged to a Lexus sedan carrying Jessica, the driver, and her two nephews, Carlos (age five) and Gabriel I. (age four). Jessica was driving about 65 miles per hour in the westbound lane.

Emery, who by this time had seen Jessica’s headlights, eased off her gas pedal to allow defendant to pull in front of her. According to his statement to authorities, defendant tried to reenter the eastbound lane in front of Emery, but there wasn’t enough room, so he slowed down to retake his original spot. By that point, however, another car had pulled behind Emery, and he couldn’t get back in. Defendant swerved onto the left shoulder. Meanwhile, Jessica had seen defendant driving towards her, had made the same decision he did, and swerved toward the same shoulder. The cars collided, and Jessica blacked out briefly at the moment of impact. Emery saw the collision and called 911.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Nathan Parsons, who testified as an expert on collision reconstruction, defendant had continued to accelerate until two and a half seconds before the collision. Five seconds before the collision, defendant was driving 67 miles per hour. Four seconds before the collision, he was driving 71 miles per hour. Three seconds before the collision, he was driving 73 miles per hour. And though defendant first stepped on his brakes two and a half seconds before the collision, he did not hit them hard enough to engage the Antilock Braking System until one second before impact. At the moment of impact, defendant was driving 42 miles per hour. Jessica was driving approximately 37 miles per hour.

When Jessica regained consciousness, her hands were on the steering wheel. Glass from the shattered windshield had cut her wrists. The engine was on fire. The children were screaming in the back seat. Defendant stumbled out of the passenger side of his car as Jessica tried to free herself. She yelled for help 10 to 20 times, but defendant just looked at her and walked away. Eventually, bystanders came to her aid, and Jessica and the children were transported to a hospital. . . .

Carlos went into hyperemic shock, had a collapsed lung, and was put on life support with a chest tube. He was in a coma for 10 days. He received multiple unsuccessful skin grafts from his legs to his arm, which required his mother to tend to an open wound from his wrist to his elbow. Carlos underwent more than 10 surgeries. He stayed at LAC +USC Medical Center from July 15, 2015, to August 4, 2015. Although he returned home briefly, he ultimately required additional surgeries and another hospital stay. Carlos, who was seven years old at the time of trial, showed the jury the injuries to his chest and legs. The jury also saw photographs of various skin and muscle grafts on his legs, chest, and arm.

Jessica remained in the hospital for three weeks. She had hip, knee, and ankle surgery to repair serious fractures; her ankle had to be “completely reassembled.” Jessica suffered additional fractures to her skull, four ribs, sternum, and lower spinal disk, as well as internal bleeding. She was confined to a wheelchair for six months, used a walker for three months, and had to modify her home to accommodate her inability to walk. She testified that she expected to undergo at least one more knee surgery."


The jury took just a little over an hour to find the defendant guilty of reckless driving that caused great bodily injury.  The trial court sentenced him to six years in prison.

The Court of Appeal affirms.