An Orange County jury has decided that a Laguna Beach woman is responsible for causing the chain-reaction crash that killed a motorcyclist while she was driving drunk.
Leslie Juarez, 27, blew a 0.23 blood-alcohol level – more than three times the legal limit – about two hours after the car wreck on the I-405 just north of the exit at Sand Canyon in Irvine on March 29, said the prosecution team.
According to the multiple people who witnessed the crash, Juarez was driving at a very high rate of speed on the southbound side of the 405 Freeway in her Mitsubishi Eclipse at about 11:30 p.m. Suddenly, she swerved into another lane and the path of an oncoming Nissan Sentra that was driven by Joelle Friedlander. She struck the passenger side of Friedlander’s Nissan which caused the vehicle to spin out of control and smash into the center divider, before the car toppled over into the oncoming traffic in the northbound lanes of the freeway.
Luckily, Friedlander was able to escape from her vehicle and scramble to the safety of the center median, suffering only a broken ankle, bruises and cuts. However, a motorcyclist who was traveling in the northbound lanes could not avoid the Nissan and slammed into its side. JC Droege, the motorcycle rider, was thrown from the bike and landed in the lanes.
When emergency responders arrived at the scene, they found that Droege had suffered multiple injuries, including head trauma. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
When officers from the California Highway Patrol arrived at the scene, Juarez displayed signs of intoxication such as slurring her words, failure to walk in a straight line and she smelt strongly of alcoholic beverages, said prosecutors.
She was arrested at taken to the station where it was later concluded that her blood-alcohol content level was significantly over the legal limit.
She was charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more, driving under the influence and causing bodily injury, in additional to sentencing enhancements and allegations for driving with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.20 percent, causing bodily injury or death to more than one victim and inflicting severe bodily injury, according to court documents.
She could face a maximum sentence of 13 years in state prison, if she is convicted.
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