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Name: Hale v. Superior Court
Case #: G048948
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 04/02/2014

A defendant may not be charged with both manslaughter and a great bodily injury (GBI) enhancement allegation under Penal Code section 12022.7 based on the same victim’s death. Appellant, with a blood alcohol level of .15%, lost control of the vehicle he was driving and crashed into a tree, killing his three passengers. The prosecution charged him with three counts of vehicular manslaughter. On each of the three manslaughter counts, the prosecution also alleged a GBI enhancement (Pen. Code, § 12022.7, subd. (a)) for the other two deceased victims, so that appellant faced a total of six GBI enhancements for the three victims. The trial court denied appellant’s pretrial motion to set aside the enhancement allegations and appellant filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to overturn the order. Held: Writ granted. Section 12022.7, subdivision (g) states that “[t]his section shall not apply to murder or manslaughter or a violation of Section 451 or 452 [arson]. Subdivisions (a), (b), (c), and (d) shall not apply if infliction of great bodily injury is an element of the offense.” Under rules of statutory construction, the statute must be interpreted according to its words and, here, there is no ambiguity in the statute’s command that the enhancement “shall not apply” to the listed offenses or to those where great bodily injury is an element of the offense. The court disagreed with People v. Julian (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 1524, which interpreted subdivision (g) to prohibit the GBI enhancement only where it concerned the same victim of manslaughter as the substantive count to which it was attached. The court also noted that there is a “glaring and unjust” sentencing disparity in the punishment of drunk driving offenders because drunk drivers who severely injure their victims instead of killing them face substantially more time in prison.