Our Los Angeles DUI blog reported several weeks ago on a very sad case out of Diamond Bar: 21-year-old Olivia Carolee Culbreath caused a crash on the 60 Freeway early February that killed six people.
Last week, the young woman went to court to answer the judge’s questions – she will be arraigned on May 21. Before causing the awful wreck, Culbreath had been convicted of a DUI in San Bernardino County and cited for traffic violations on two other occasions.
17 separate witnesses said they had seen a driver barreling down the 57 and 60 Freeways going the wrong way, just before the collision. Witnesses said that Culbreath was traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour.
The crash involved Culbreath’s vehicle and two other vehicles. All told, there were only two survivors from the awful wreck – Culbreath herself and Joel Cortez, the driver of one of the other vehicles. Two of Culbreath’s passengers — 21-year-old Kristin Melissa Young, and Culbreath’s sister, 24-year-old Maya — died in the crash. Four people driving a Ford Explorer involved in the crash — Gregorio Megia-Martinez, Leticia Ibarra, Jessica Jasmine Mejia, and Ester Delgado — all died.
Culbreath herself suffered serious injuries, including a ruptured bladder and a broken femur. She is being held on a $6 million bail, and she faces life behind bars. As the judge asked her questions, she allegedly “softly answered” and “did not look towards her family.” Her family members were said to be “disheartened – an obvious reaction, given that one sister had been killed and the other faces a life prison sentence.
Culbreath had to be wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, because she still cannot walk due to her injuries.
Obviously, Culbreath’s case is extreme – fortunately, most DUI incidents do not lead to such horrific results. However, if you or a loved one did get into an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could face vehicular manslaughter or murder charges, depending on your past and what happened during the event.
One of the more serious types of vehicular manslaughter charges is called “gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI” — it is punished per Penal Code Section 191.5(a). Prosecutors have a high burden of proof in such a case. To prove gross negligence, you need to show that what happened was beyond the realm of normal negligence – for instance, you acted in a way that a reasonable person would conclude could cause serious harm or death. (Driving 100 miles per hour the wrong way on a freeway would certainly qualify, per this definition.)
For help defending against your Los Angeles DUI charges — whether you face vehicular manslaughter or much less serious charges — please turn to attorney Michael Kraut of the Kraut Law Group for a free, confidential consultation.