A Spokane man suspected of being drunk when he plowed his vehicle into a car killing one teenager and seriously injuring another will still face charges even if blood tests reveal he was not legally drunk.
In mid-June, the Washington State Patrol said Ramiro Sanchez, 29, was driving while intoxicated on U.S. 395 north of Spokane when he crashed his sedan into a coupé occupied by two Spokane high school students who had just completed their sophomore year. The driver of the coupé died. His passenger remained hospitalized, in a coma in late June, but had showed signs of improvement. A 23-year-old woman in Sanchez's vehicle was injured in the crash, as well.
Sanchez's passenger, told a trooper that “he was calling out his speeds, ‘100, 110, 120 mph' just prior to the collision.” Sanchez likely was driving more than 100 mph when the struck the coupé.
After the crash, Washington State Patrol troopers said Sanchez had the smell of alcohol on his breath and he, admitted to drinking at a Mexican restaurant before the crash. Sanchez, who was uninjured, refused to take a breath test, but troopers obtained a warrant for a blood draw and a sample taken from Sanchez about two hours after the wreck.
The defendant was booked into the Spokane County Jail on a $250,000 bond. He was charged with vehicular homicide. Even if blood tests were to show Sanchez was not legally drunk, he can still be charged with vehicular homicide because he is suspected of driving recklessly and showed disregard for the safety of others. If passengers from either of the vehicles were to die within three years of the crash, Sanchez could face charges of vehicular homicide in their deaths, too.
According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 46.61.520), when the death of any person ensues within three years as the result of injury caused by the driving of any vehicle, the driver is guilty of vehicular homicide, provided the driver was operating a motor vehicle:
- While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
- In a reckless manner; or
- With disregard for the safety of others.
Vehicular homicide is a class A felony punishable by up to life in prison or a fine of up to $50,000 or both. If, however, the driver has prior offenses, two additional years for each prior offense can be added to the sentence.
A DUI conviction can have serious, long-term implications. If someone dies as a result of a vehicle crash, the penalties can be even more severe. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence or in a crash in which a death has occurred, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.