In the common vernacular, murder is often an intentional act. However, the law defines murder differently and attempts to draw very clear lines to differentiate between murder and manslaughter. Murder is basically committed with malicious behavior or a reckless disregard for human life.
Alternatively, manslaughter arises out of negligence or carelessness for the safety of others. Most fatal accidents involving DUI are charged as manslaughter. However, a murder charge can result if it can be proved that a person knew that driving drunk may lead to the death of another person.
KEYT 3 reports on a man found guilty of manslaughter, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the murder charge.
On April 15, 2016, Gino Lopez was traveling south on Highway 101 towards San Luis Obispo. He was driving at a high rate of speed when he made a turn that was unsafe. The turn sent his 1994 Honda Civic into a guardrail. The vehicle then plowed into another car which was also heading south.
A third vehicle hit Lopez’s car, which caused a passenger, 16-year-old Emily Monique Reyes, to be ejected. She later succumbed to her injuries. Lopez and a second passenger fled the scene but were later located and arrested.
A jury recently found Lopez guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. They also found Lopez guilty of the enhancement charge of fleeing the scene. He was also found guilty of driving under the influence causing great bodily harm to more than one person and leaving the scene of an accident. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of murder.
Lopez has a previous conviction for driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license when he was under 21.
Lopez is facing up to fifteen years in state prison.