Our D.C. DUI lawyers understand that prosecutors have cleared the 18-year-old on charges that he was DUI at the time of the crash.
How could authorities have been so wrong? And what changed their minds?
Part of the reason they got it wrong was because the defendant, apparently intimidated by the real driver of the vehicle, told police at the scene that he had been the one driving.
There was no question the 18-year-old defendant had been inside a sport utility vehicle when it rear-ended a passenger van carrying seven people who were on their way home from Colorado, where they had gone to visit an ill relative. But the issue of whether he was behind the wheel was soon be called into question.
The SUV had reportedly been traveling at speeds of higher than 105 miles-per-hour on the two-lane highway around 3 a.m. The two in the SUV were on their way to Los Vegas.
The people killed ranged in age from 13 to 53. The survivors of the van included a 15-year-old passenger and the 40-year-old driver.
Troopers arriving to the scene found opened and unopened beer bottles inside the vehicle.
Authorities tested the defendant’s blood, finding his blood-alcohol content measured at 0.12 percent at the time of the wreck, which would have put him at well over the legal limit of 0.08 percent. However, the other man inside the vehicle, a 23-year-old, who had been injured in the crash, was transported to the hospital and his blood alcohol level was never tested.
The defendant was charged with seven felony counts, which included driving under the influence causing death or substantial injury. Had he been convicted, he would have been facing between two to 20 years in state prison on each charge, which means he was looking at a minimum of 14 years and a maximum of 140 years behind bars.
However, one of the survivors noted to police that she had heard the two men arguing shortly after the crash. Then his defense attorneys presented the theory that the older man had intimidated the younger into admitting guilt. It was forensics that would later prove it.
Authorities now say that the defendant’s blood was found on the passenger-side console, window and windshield. What’s more, the older man’s DNA was found on the steering wheel. His footprint was left on the driver’s side door, where he had reportedly kicked it open after the crash.
It’s not clear now whether the other man will face charges. Authorities aren’t even sure where he’s living at this point. We suspect it’s unlikely given the severity of the crash that he will simply be let go, though without a blood-alcohol test conducted after the crash, it may be difficult to charge him with DUI. He could still face serious charges such as reckless operation or vehicular manslaughter, for which authorities wouldn’t need to prove intoxication.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.