In California, getting multiple DUIs can have escalating penalties, especially if the DUIs fall within ten years of one another. Even with the escalating penalties, a person is generally not looking at felony status until their fourth DUI, provided there are no aggravating factors. Aggravating factors, also know as sentence enhancements, occur if people are injured or killed. One such aggravating factor that can become serious for a second DUI is if someone is killed. Under the Watson rule, a person who has a previous DUI who gets a second DUI that kills another person may be charged with murder.
The La Mesa Patch reports on a man facing murder charges in a second DUI offense.
27-year-old Rene Ruiz is facing charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, hit-and-run with death, possession of a controlled substance, and driving on a suspended license. If convicted, he faces 15 years to life in prison.
Ruiz, who has a previous DUI conviction from 2011, was behind the wheel of an eastbound 1999 Mercedes the veered off of Route 94 in the Casa de Oro area at around 2 p.m. The vehicle then hit a guardrail, went airborne, and then overturned.
Ruiz, along with an unnamed 22-year-old La Mesa woman crawled from the vehicle and left on foot. They left behind Melanie Alexandra Feliciano, who had been seated on the center console between the driver and passenger seat.
She was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The California Highway Patrol and local sheriff’s deputies searched the area, where they located Ruiz and the woman who fled the accident. They had been hiding in a canyon near the wreck and were taken to the hospital for the treatment of serious injuries.
In September, Ruiz pleaded not guilty to all charges and was ordered to be held without bail.