Murder Charges Possible In Cuesta Grade Crash

In California, a person who is convicted of a DUI usually has to undergo DUI school as a part of the penalties that they face. The length of the school can vary, depending on the severity of the DUI and whether or not it is a first-time conviction, but DUI school can range from 12 weeks to 30 months. As long as someone attends DUI school, they are considered to be advised that any future DUIs that claim a life can be charged as second-degree murder. When connected to DUI, this is known as a Watson murder.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports on the trial of a man accused of Watson murder.

On April 19th, 2016, now-23-year-old Gino Lopez was speeding in a modified 1994 Honda Civic southbound down the Cuesta Grade with three passengers in the car. He lost control, plowed into a guardrail, and then into a tractor trailer. Another car then crashed into the Honda, ejecting one of the passengers.

The crash killed 16-year-old Emily Monique Reyes, who died from her injuries after being ejected.

Nine months before the fatal accident, Lopez was convicted of DUI in Kern County.

Lopez pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence causing injury or death, and driving on a suspended license.

On Monday, during the jury trial, witnesses described Lopez and another passenger tossing beer cans from the car while their friend lay on the roadway.

According to the California Highway Patrol, at the time of the accident, Lopez had a blood-alcohol content of at least .10%.

If convicted of the second-degree murder charge, also known as Watson murder, Lopez faces a penalty of 15 years to life in state prison.

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