DUI Manslaughter Charge In West Marin Cyclist Crash

The Mercury News reports that a driver from West Marin faces gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charges in a crash that killed a bicyclist. 

25-year-old Paula Elizabeth Drake remains free on bail, but on October 25th, Judge Geoffrey Howard ruled that there is sufficient evidence for Drake to stand trial on five counts. The ruling came after a preliminary hearing that saw testimony from two CHP officers, a crash witness, and a state criminalist. 

The most serious charge that Drake is facing is gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. 

All of the charges stem from a crash that occurred on October 29, 2018. At about 5:18 p.m. in Woodacre, Drake veered over a fog line on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, striking 63-year-old Debra Louise DiBenedetto. 

DiBenedetto was thrown from her bicycle and landed in a ditch. She was rushed to a hospital where she succumbed to her injuries about an hour later. 

Drake performed a wobbly field sobriety test. Approximately ninety minutes after the collision, a breathalyzer registered a BAC of 0.066% and 0.067%. At nearly 9 p.m., hours after the crash, a blood sample was collected and sent to the lab. It registered at 0.031%. Drake also had marijuana and Lamotrigine in her system. Lamotrigine is a medication used to treat conditions like epilepsy and bipolar disorder. 

The state criminalist testified that he calculated Drake’s BAC at the time of the accident would have been 0.09%. 

A witness behind Drake testified that she had crossed the fog line about 5 times before the accident. Computer data from Drake’s car revealed she had been traveling at 59 m.p.h. and did not brake before striking DiBenedetto.

In California, many DUI drivers are pulled over before they can get into a collision. When a collision does occur, the laws in California take the incident very seriously. Serious injuries can make the DUI an automatic felony, even without previous DUI charges on a person’s record. If the accident kills another person, the charges can quickly become very serious. One of the charges a person may face is gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This charge alleges that the driver acted with gross negligence. If convicted, the penalty for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is between 4 and 10 years in state prison. 


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