WOFFORD HEIGHTS, Calif. (KGET) —There are over 10,000 deaths nationally due to DUI’s, 1,100 of them happening here in California. CHP reports between 2018-2020 there were 92 Fatal Collisions. That breaks down to 35 fatal collisions in 2020, 31 in 2019, and 26 in 2018.
Between 2018-2020 Wofford Heights had 19 victims injured or killed by drunk drivers, one of those victims being Kassidy Philips.
Driving while under the influence, Driving while intoxicated, no matter what you call it if your blood alcohol content is over .08 and you’re behind the wheel you are breaking the law and risking the lives of others and yourself.
“A drunk driver, a person who is a habitual drunk driver has driven about 70 times before they’re even caught. So, we also note that every 60 seconds there is someone who is being injured by a drunk driver someplace in the county,” said Patricia Rillera, Ca. State Executive Director for Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
That’s exactly what happened in the case of Kassidy Philips on October 25, 2019. It was her 17th birthday. She was walking with her friend, when an alleged drunk driver, Heidi Jeremiah, hit and killed Kassidy and then fled the scene. Jeremiah was released on a $40,000 bail two days after the incident.
“If they are able to afford bail they’re released from custody they’re still supposed to refrain from drinking there’s conditions that the court will put on you as part of the bail terms and usually that includes; you can’t go to any bars, you can’t have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system, so there are some conditions that they place on there,” said Supervising Deputy District Attorney, Joseph Marcano with the Kern County DA’s office Gang Unit and Office of Traffic Safety.
When the investigation of the accident was completed by Bakersfield CHP the DA’s Office filed the case on March 11, 2020. An arrest warrant was issued for $100,000. On June 8, 2020 Jeremiah posted bail again. Her preliminary hearing is set for June 2. On average, it can take anywhere from 10 business days up to a couple of months before a preliminary hearing is held.
“It is common for a case to be around for more than a year, more than two years before they are actually tried and when it comes to some homicides sometimes it takes, you know, three years before you try a case, which is unfortunate, you really want to try cases sooner than that,” Marcano said.
Marcano says sentencing for felony DUI’s can vary from four years to six years up to 10 years in jail depending on the circumstances of the case. Usually, if it is a first-time misdemeanor offense there is no jail time unless the case involves a fatality.
“The penalties are just not harsh enough, in my opinion, to really have an impact n most people and I think that’s really one of the reasons why there are so many repeat offenders,” said Rillera.
Jeremiah could see up to 10 years for gross vehicular manslaughter, and an additional 5 years for fleeing the scene depending on the decision of the judge and jury.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that over 50% of offenders are repeat DUI offenders. Most have driven under the influence at least 70 times before they are caught.
I spoke to the Philips family and they are still having a difficult time mourning the loss of Kassidy. Her mom tells me she still has nightmares of the of the crime scene and wants people to know the effects drinking and driving can have.
Wednesday night BPD performed a DUI checkpoint between 6 PM and midnight. 927 vehicles were screened, and three drivers were arrested for driving under the influence.