A 45-year-old Oregon woman faces eight charges including counts of manslaughter in the second degree and assault in the third degree in connection with a December 2019 car accident in Umatilla County that claimed the life of a 75-year-old woman. The manslaughter charge alone carries a minimum sentence of 75 months in state prison. The woman appeared in court for a pretrial hearing on Feb. 25, and media reports suggest that her attorneys may seek to resolve the matter through plea negotiations.
The alleged drunk driving accident took place at the intersection of U.S. Route 395 and East Punkin Center Road near Hermiston at approximately 10:03 p.m. on Dec. 6. According to an Oregon State Police report, the woman’s Toyota sedan was proceeding northbound on U.S. Route 395 when it struck a Kia sedan that was in the process of making a left turn onto East Punkin Center Road. Police say the woman struck the Kia because she failed to stop at a red light.
The 77-year-old man behind the wheel of the Kia and his 75-year-old wife both suffered serious injuries in the crash and were transported by paramedics to a nearby trauma center. The woman was pronounced dead shortly after she arrived. Initial reports do not reveal what led police to determine that the woman was driving under the influence of alcohol.
Criminal defense attorneys with experience in DUI cases may seek to avoid a jury trial when road users were killed or seriously injured and the evidence against their clients is overwhelming. Juries tend to have little sympathy in these situations, but prosecutors could offer to reduce the penalties significantly to avoid the risk of trying the case in court. However, attorneys may seek to have drunk driving charges dismissed if toxicology tests were not conducted properly or performed with malfunctioning or poorly maintained equipment.