United States v. Pineda-Doval

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 08-27-2012
  • Case #: 11-10134
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judge Canby; Dissent by Circuit Judge Graber
  • Full Text Opinion

Reckless driving that results in an fatal accident does not amount to acting with malice aforethought, if the driver did not comprehend the risk involved.

Adan Pineda-Doval appeals his ten concurrent life sentences for transporting illegal aliens and driving in such a manner that resulted in the death of ten individuals. Pineda-Doval was driving a vehicle with 20 people in the back. He swerved to avoid a spike strip set out by the police, and the vehicle then rolled. This accident resulted in the death of ten of the passengers. The trial court determined that he acted with malice aforethought in his actions that led to the accident., as required in the Guidelines. The Court found that the evidence does not support the finding of that mental state. There must be a “very high degree of risk” in order to satisfy the finding. Pineda-Doval had experienced a similar situation with a spike strip, but did not flip the car. Given this experience, the Court found that he did not know the risk that existed. There was also testimony from police officers that this type of accident was not usual when using spike strips. Because Pineda-Doval was not aware of the risk of this accident, he did not have the requisite mindset of malice aforethought. As such, the trial court was in error in sentencing him to ten concurrent life sentences. VACATED and REMANDED.

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