While any DUI is a serious charge and should be taken as such, a DUI that involves the death of another person is even more serious. Although vehicular manslaughter with a DUI can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor, if police determine that the person was driving recklessly, such as speeding excessively or driving the wrong way, that person can be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This charge is always a felony. The possible penalties for this charge include up to 10 years in state prison. If the person has previous vehicular manslaughter convictions or has two or more previous DUI convictions, they can be looking at 15 years to life in prison.
30-year-old Melvin Cleveland Branch celebrated his birthday on New Year’s Eve. In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, Branch was involved in a suspected DUI crash that killed a woman and a 9-year-old girl.
Just before 1 a.m. on the westbound 22 Freeway, just east of Valley View Street, Branch was driving a BMW sedan at a high rate of speed. He rear-ended a Lexus in the carpool lane.
The Lexus was sent crashing into a sound barrier wall along the right shoulder of the highway. The BMW continued, slamming into a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup being driven by a 33-year-old woman. A 9-year-old girl was a passenger in the vehicle. Both were from Hawthorne.
The truck was turned onto its side, still being pushed by the BMW, across traffic lanes. Both vehicles then struck a guardrail and came to a stop.
A Mazda sedan then crashed into the truck and then crashes into the center divider.
The woman and the child in the truck both died from their injuries.
Branch suffered from minor injuries. The drivers of the Mazda and the Lexus were not hurt.
Officers determined that Branch was under the influence and placed him under arrest. When placed into the back of the police vehicle, he kicked the back window out and attempted to flee. He was soon caught.
Branch is being held on $100,000 bail facing charges of DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.