Street racing has become incredibly popular across Los Angeles. Since The Fast and the Furious hit theaters in 2001, more than 180 people have been killed in residential Los Angeles street racing accidents. Despite the known dangers of the practice, young drivers across the city continue to make Los Angeles roads more dangerous.
The drivers who decide to race are not the only ones who put their lives and safety on the line. Unfortunately, anyone else who happens to be on the road at the time of a race is in danger. Most recently, two young boys – ages 6 and 8 – lost their lives because two young men felt the urge to race one another down a street in Perris.
Deadly Perris Street Racing Crash
According to reports, two cousins, Ricardo Zuniga and Josue Leyva-Gallegos, were both stopped at a traffic light in Perris on May 15. The pair chatted through open windows and agreed to meet back at Zuniga’s home to hang out. As the light prepared to turn green, Gallegos turned to his cousin and said “you ready?”
As soon as the light changed, both men hit the gas and sped off down the road. Driving at high speeds is dangerous enough. Driving at high speeds on the wrong side of the road, which is what Zuniga was doing, is even more dangerous. As the men raced in one direction, a young man driving his two young brothers home from school in a Nissan Versa approached. Zuniga, who was driving against traffic on the wrong side of the road, was unable to avoid a collision. The two young boys were killed in the crash and the older brother was hospitalized with serious injuries.
Charges for Street Racing Fatalities
The two street racers fled the scene immediately. Police investigating the crash were ultimately able to locate both men and arrest them on suspicion of street racing. Zuniga was charged with two counts of murder, as well as driving without a license and proof of insurance, while Gallegos was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. The consequences of their actions may be more severe since they fled the scene.
Murder vs. Vehicular Manslaughter
One of the cousins was charged with murder, while the other was charged with vehicular manslaughter. Why? Both men are equally responsible for the deaths of two young boys, but the roles they played in the accident were not identical. As a result, they face unique criminal charges that are very specific to their actions.
Zuniga was driving a car against traffic on the wrong side of the road when he collided with the Nissan Versa. It is this specific crash that caused two young boys to lose their lives. Since Zuniga operated the vehicle that caused the fatal crash, he is facing criminal charges for murder.
In California, murder is defined in Penal Code 187 PC as the “unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” Murder charges are generally split into two different categories: first-degree and second-degree.
First-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 25-year-to-life in prison, generally involves willful and deliberate acts of murder that are planned in advance.
Second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 15-years-to-life in prison, generally involves willful acts that result in another person’s death, but that are not planned out or premeditated. In other words, another person is killed because of actions that are so incredibly reckless and dangerous that you should know that death is a likely consequence.
Zuniga will likely be charged with second-degree murder for this actions. He did not get into the car and drive it with the specific intent to kill those young boys. However, he did willfully drive a car at high speeds on the wrong side of the road. He should have known that this behavior was very dangerous and likely to result in death.
Gallegos was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. While he was not driving the specific car that was involved in the fatal crash, he played an important role in the accident. Had he not been racing his cousin, the crash would likely have never happened.
In California, vehicular manslaughter is defined in Penal Code 192(c) PC to mean causing the death of another person while “driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence.” If the unlawful act is a felony, murder charges can be substituted.
Since street racing is a misdemeanor offense in California, Gallegos can only face charges for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. If convicted, he can face up to 6 years in a California state prison.
Fighting Criminal Charges in Los Angeles
Street racing is incredibly dangerous and can have devastating consequences. While the act of street racing itself is only a misdemeanor offense in California, unintended accidents can have life-changing results.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a street racing accident, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as you can. You have the right to defend yourself, and the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with our skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys today.