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Name: People v. Sanchez
Case #: C032228
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/31/2001
Subsequent History: None

Sanchez crashed his car while trying to elude police officers and one of his passengers was killed. Sanchez drove at speeds up to 100 miles per hour and had a blood alcohol level of .18 percent. He had a prior conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. The trial court instructed the jury, pursuant to the felony-murder doctrine, that a person who kills a human being while violating Vehicle Code section 2800.3 is guilty of second degree murder. The appellate court here reversed Sanchez’s second degree murder conviction. In determining whether a violation of section 2800.3 is inherently dangerous to human life, the elements must be viewed in the abstract rather than by looking at appellant’s conduct. The elements of section 2800.3 can be satisfied by conduct which does not necessarily pose a high risk of death, so it is not an offense which is inherently dangerous to human life. It can therefore not serve as a predicate crime for application of the second degree felony-murder doctrine. Even though there was sufficient evidence of implied malice present in this case, and the jury was instructed in alternate theories of second degree murder, the jury was given an erroneous alternative and there is no way to determine whether they even discussed the evidence of implied malice. Therefore, reversal was required.