BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An accused drunken driver arrested last year in a deadly southwest Bakersfield crash will not face felony charges after prosecutors determined the speed of the other driver was the primary cause of the collision.
Kimberly Phommasouk has been charged with three misdemeanor DUI charges in connection with the March 9 crash that killed Jermari Terrell, 19. Phommasouk is due in court Friday for arraignment.
Prosecutors say Terrell was driving west on White Lane at 84 to 85 mph — more than 30 mph above the posted speed limit — shortly before the crash. Phommasouk was traveling east in an SUV and made a left turn where White Lane intersects Dovewood Street.
Terrell hit the brakes but couldn’t stop and hit Phommasouk’s vehicle at 77 mph, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said in an email.
Terrell was pronounced dead at the scene. Phommasouk suffered minor injuries and was arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, felony driving under the influence resulting in death and drunken driving.
She was released from custody while further investigation was conducted. The misdemeanor charges were filed eight months later.
“The investigation concluded that Phommasouk’s intoxication was not the primary collision factor, and that further, a sober attentive driver in Phommasouk’s position may have reasonably made the same decision to make the turn, because gauging the speed of oncoming vehicles in that position is difficult, and it is unreasonable for drivers to anticipate such excessive speeds of oncoming traffic when making decisions to make unprotected left turns,” he said.
An intoxicated driver’s actions must directly cause an injury or death in order for charges of felony vehicular manslaughter or DUI causing injury to be filed. Phommasouk’s conduct, Kinzel said, didn’t cause the crash, and therefore she wasn’t responsible for Terrell’s death.
“Because the DUI did not cause the crash and the resulting injuries, the charges relate only to the driving, not the causing of the crash,” he said.