In late August 2021, our client, then age 21, was driving home after sitting for a long time to have a large new tattoo inked onto her body. She was extremely hungry.
As she drove westbound on Anaheim Street through Wilmington towards the Harbor Freeway, she passed out from low blood sugar. Her car veered to the left across oncoming traffic, which luckily stopped to avoid a head-on collision. Her car then went onto the sidewalk and ran over a 72-year-old woman, ricocheted off a building wall (a VFW hall), ran over a fire hydrant, went across a side street (Mar Vista Avenue) and finally came to a stop by crashing into a metal fence surrounding a radiator service facility.
Our client awoke from the violent shifts in direction and impacts to her car. She was pulled from her car and police came to speak to her. An ambulance also arrived at the scene to attend to the older woman, who was unconscious.
Our client was not injured and not under the influence of any alcohol or a controlled substance. Police allowed our client to leave the scene via a private vehicle driven by a neighbor who came to the scene and drove our client home. Our client’s car, which she had just purchased, was a total loss.
Our client also was driving without any automobile insurance.
The 72-year-old woman suffered a broken right leg, a broken right arm, chest fracture, pelvic fracture, concussion and spinal injury (but no spinal fracture).
About eight months later, our client received a letter from the Long Beach Superior Court advising her that a criminal complaint had been filed against her for assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code § 245(a)(1)) and reckless driving causing serious bodily injury (Vehicle Code §§ 23103, 23105(a)), as the victim suffered a loss of consciousness and broken bones.
As the reader of this summary may be aware, a conviction for violation of § 245(a)(1) carries with it a sentence of two, three or four years in state prison, served at 85% minimum of the total sentence. The offense is a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law.
A felony conviction for violation of §§ 23103 / 23105 has a sixteen month, two year or three year state prison sentence. At the time of the crash, our client was on probation in a separate case, so she faced up to three years additional time in state prison for the probation violation.
Both charges are “wobblers,” meaning that charges can be filed as a felony or as a misdemeanor. When the 23103 / 23105 charge is filed as a misdemeanor, defendant must serve a minimum of 30 days in county jail.
The client called up our office after receiving the letter from the court, puzzled that she would be charged with a crime for passing out while driving her car, when the loss of consciousness was not from alcohol or drugs. Her loss of consciousness was unexpected and she said she might have initial stages of diabetes.
The client further described the facts of the case and mentioned that she had several other open cases in other courthouses in Los Angeles County, one for possession for sale of a controlled substance and two involving grand theft.
So, when Greg and the client appeared in court in Long Beach, our goal was to resolve the case with no custody and to have the 245(a)(1) charge dismissed, as our client did not intend to scare, cause anxiety or intimidate (assault) the victim. Our client did not know the victim whatsoever.
At most, it seemed, our client was grossly negligent, perhaps even criminally so for driving in a stupor caused by low blood sugar. And had she merely crashed into a parked car with no injuries to anyone else, police might not have even recommended criminal charges. However, because she seriously injured another person, a 72-year-old woman no less, the case was filed as a felony.
By the third appearance, the prosecutor had immersed himself in the case facts and recognized this. He decided to dismiss the 245(a)(1) charge outright and then offer our client probation for two years with no time in custody and an obligation to perform 30 days of community service. Out client would plea to the reckless driving charge as a felony, but she would have the right to request that the charge be lowered to a misdemeanor upon completion of probation. The client was happy to resolve the case with no time in custody.
For more information about the legal issues involved in this case, please click on the following articles: