Recently, in People v. Mace (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 875, the court concluded that the owner of a vehicle who is riding in the vehicle at the time of an accident and who has full authority to direct and control the operation of the vehicle is required to fulfill the duties of a “driver” described in sections 20001 and 20003 of the Vehicle Code. The court also determined that a “person injured in the accident” may include the person who is actually driving the vehicle.
In Mace the defendant was charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and hit-and-run. In all counts the defendant was charged with personally inflicting great bodily injury, Penal Code section 12022.7. As a result of the great bodily injury allegations, the offenses were deemed to be serious felonies within the meaning of Penal Code section 1192.7. On appeal, the defendant argued that he had no duty to render assistance to the injured party because he was not the driver of the vehicle. In rejecting his argument, the court found that it would not be irrational to impose on an owner with control over the vehicle a duty to render assistance to a driver injured in his vehicle.
The opinion in Mace affirms the fact that an owner occupant of a vehicle can be held criminally responsible for not rendering aid to individuals injured in an automobile accident. It also illustrates the importance of rendering aid to individuals injured in automobile accidents. In Mace, the defendant was sentenced to two years in prison for failing to render aid to the injured driver of the vehicle. The injured driver was his sister who was under the influence at the time of the accident.
The decision in Mace, and sentence imposed by the court illustrates the seriousness of alcohol related driving offenses.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an alcohol related driving offense, including driving under the influence, you should contact an experienced Fresno DUI Attorney.