Court documents confirm that the Clovis woman arrested on October 21, 2011, following a collision on Highway 168 has been charged with murder. According to the local media and the California Highway Patrol, Ms. Vasquez was on her way home from an evening out when she struck the vehicle operated by Frank Winslow. Mr. Winslow was on his way home that morning from work.
Ms. Vasquez is claimed to have two prior driving under the influence convictions in Fresno County. Her most recent, a conviction that occurred within a year of the accident. At the time of the accident Ms. Vasquez was on probation for the prior DUI conviction. A standard condition of probation for most individuals convicted of driving under the influence is to not operate a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in his or her system. Ms. Vasquez was likely advised of this condition of probation when she entered a guilty plea.
In most instances, when an individual is killed by an allegedly intoxicated motorist, the intoxicated motorist will be charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. However, recent California opinions have upheld convictions for murder, pursuant to an implied malice theory, in driving under the influence cases where an individual is killed by an intoxicated motorist.
Whether to charge an individual with murder when someone is killed by an allegedly intoxicated motorist is a decision made by the district attorney’s office. Numerous factors likely played a role in the decision to charge Ms. Vasquez with murder. One factor may have stemmed from the fact that Ms. Vasquez had been given a “Murder Advisement” following her prior two convictions for driving under the influence. The Murder Advisement is a standard court advisory given by the court following a guilty plea in Fresno County. The Murder Advisement provides:
“You are hereby advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to human life to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. If you continue to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, and as a result of that driving, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder.”
If the change of plea form(s) Ms. Vasquez signed following her prior driving under the influence convictions included this advisement, this could have been a significant factor in electing to charge her with murder. Additional factors may become available over the course of the legal proceedings.
For now, Ms. Vasquez is presumed innocent of all charges, including murder.