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Are California’s DUI Penalties Always That Harsh?

Who could have thought that a DUI crash can result in a 30-years-to-life prison sentence? Earlier this week, a 26-year-old California woman was given the maximum sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol in Los Angeles.

However, this is not a regular DUI conviction where the Los Angeles Police Department arrests a woman for traffic law violations or driving in a reckless manner. The woman killed six people, including her own sister, in the horrendous DUI, wrong-way crash.

We asked our Los Angeles car crash attorney from JML Law to review the details of Olivia Carolee Culbreath’s case.

Woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for drunk driving

On December 5, 2018, the 26-year-old woman was sentenced to 30 years-to-life in prison for the devastating DUI crash in which she killed six people nearly five years ago.

The horrific car accident occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 9, 2014, when Culbreath, in her Camaro, was driving 100 mph in the wrong direction on a local freeway in Los Angeles before crashing head-on into a Ford Explorer with four people inside.

Everyone in both vehicles – except Culbreath – was killed in the DUI accident. The dead in the Explorer was Gregoria Mejia-Marinez, 47; Leticia Ibarra, 42; their daughter, Jessica Mejia, 20, and her grandmother Ester Delgado, 80, according to Inside Edition. Dead in the Camaro were Culbreath’s 24-year-old sister, Maya, and their 21-year-old friend, Kristin Young. Culbreath was severely injured in the horrific collision.

The maximum sentence for DUI in California

Culbreath wept in court as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench sentenced her to 30-years-to-life in prison for killing six people in the 2014 DUI crash. Our experienced car accident attorney in Los Angeles, who has personally reviewed the details of the case, says that Culbreath had entered a no-contest plea to six counts of second-degree murder earlier this year.

Although Culbreath’s blood alcohol level was not tested at the scene of the fatal crash, three hours after the DUI accident, her blood alcohol level was nearly double the legal driving limit of .08 percent (.15 percent).

Before the fatal DUI crash, Culbreath also had a prior DUI conviction after a single-vehicle accident, in which she plowed into a light pole. Interestingly, Culbreath’s license was suspended after the prior DUI conviction but was reinstated less than a week before the fatal crash in which she killed six people.

Mary Mejia, who lost her parents, sister, and grandmother in the fatal DUI crash, said in court, “No one will ever feel the pain I feel.”

Penalties for driving under the influence in California

“Wait, why are DUI penalties so harsh in California?” you may be wondering. As long as no one was killed in a DUI crash, the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol in California are not that harsh.

Our car accident attorney Los Angeles explains that the penalties for a DUI depend on how many prior convictions the defendant has. For a first DUI, the defendant will face up to 6 months in jail, a fine of $390 to $1,000, and a license suspension of up to 6 months.

For a second DUI, the defendant will face up to 12 months in jail, a fine of $390 to $1,000, and a license suspension of up to 24 months. For a third DUI, the defendant will face up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $1,800 and a license suspension of up to 36 months.

If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, schedule a free consultation with our lawyers at JML Law. Call at 818-610-8800 today.


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Our Los Angeles car accident law firm accepts cases on referral from other lawyers throughout California. To schedule a free initial consultation, call our office at 818-610-8800 or send us an email.

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