Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wrong Way Driver Pleads Not Guilty for Death of Santee Deputy in Car Crash

The wrong-way driver that was being chased by Deputy Ken Collier before the crash that ended his life has pleaded not guilty to the charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Jose Pedro Lopez, 22, may face up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

Lopez was arrested following the car accident on state route 52 last weekend.

Deputy ken Collier of the Santee Sheriff’s Department spotted Lopez going east on the westbound lanes and was moving one lane to the other.

Deputy Collier made a U-turn and tried to halt the vehicle but he ran out of room and struck the concrete abutment for an overpass between Santo road and Mast Boulevard.

Deputy Collier’s SUV fell about 500-600 feet down a ravine.

He was brought to a hospital where he later died of his injuries.

Although most of us want Lopez in jail, I am not so sure if the manslaughter charge will stick because Lopez did not hit Collier’s car.

It is working on the assumption that if not for Lopez actions, then Collier would not have died.

Other factors may have caused the crash like other vehicles, Collier’s own driving abilities or even the SUV itself (SUVs are notorious for being prone to rollovers).

In criminal law, guilt has to be proven without reasonable doubt, and it will be difficult to prove that in this case.

The family of Collier may try filing a wrongful death against Lopez in civil court regardless of what happens in the criminal case.

The standards for proving liability in civil court is not as stringent because unlike in criminal court where the defendant’s freedom is at stake, damages in civil lawsuit are often just monetary.