The Recorder Online reports that a Pixley man has been convicted of DUI murder. 27-year-old Jesus Suazo was convicted by a jury last Friday of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury, fleeing the scene of an accident, and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license.
The charges stem from an accident that occurred on May 13, 2017. Suazo and his 27-year-old female passenger were traveling southbound on Highway 99. They were just north of Avenue 200 in Tulare. Suazo was speeding at speeds of 100 m.p.h. when he lost control of the vehicle. He crashed into agricultural equipment at a tractor store. The accident tore away the passenger vehicle and caused the female passenger to be ejected. It wasn’t until three hours later that a passing motorist saw the wreckage and called 911.
First responders declared the female passenger dead at the scene. A bloody handprint on the driver’s side door prompted a search for Suazo. Law enforcement officers found Suazo 20 minutes later hiding in a tractor. He told police officers he had been at a party earlier and family members told him not to drive. His blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.14%.
At the time of the accident, Suazo was still on probation for a prior DUI. Sentencing is scheduled for December. Suazo faces 19 years to life in prison.
In California, DUI murder is not a separate charge. It is a second-degree murder charge under California Penal Code 187. It is a felony charge, but thankfully it is also one of the rarest of DUI charges. Typically, a DUI murder charge requires that the driver accused have a previous DUI conviction. This is because the charge requires that the person have acted with gross indifference to human life. Once convicted of DUI, California requires that drivers attend DUI school and sometimes, serve probation. During school and on probation, DUI offenders are informed that if they drive while intoxicated again, and kill someone, they may be charged with murder.