A California judge will rule next week in a case involving a woman who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and crashed through her neighbors' fence and into their house. As described in this Ukiah Daily Journal article, the woman is being charged for DUI as well as a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon. The driver has had two previous DUI convictions in the past 10 years and had a BAC of 0.25 percent at the time of the accident. Prosecution is pushing for an additional charge of assault with a deadly weapon because many people were at the neighbor's home and could have been injured when she crashed through the wall. No other DUI driver has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon before and, if the judge rules in favor of the prosecution, this case may set a legal precedent that could be followed in Maine and all over the country.
53 year old Joan E. Rainville was reportedly under the influence when she drove her car through her neighbor's yard and into a wall in their home. The wall actually led into the neighbor's 8 year old son's room. Fortunately, no one was harmed during the accident, but prosecutors are pushing for her to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon because the car had the potential to do serious harm.
While Ms. Rainville deserves to be punished if alcohol was really to blame for her actions, she most likely never intended to harm anyone. Adding the assault charge seems to be a way for the prosecution to add more jail time and license suspension to her sentence. Alleging that a car is a deadly weapon may make sense on paper, but setting this kind of precedent is opening a whole new can of legal worms. Think of how this kind of charge would relate to a pedestrian accident or even a minor fender bender. Prosecutors should not count on this charge sticking and instead focus on getting Ms. Rainville into alcohol treatment in order to address the root cause of her actions.