OCEANSIDE — A 39-year-old man accused of fleeing a drunk driving accident scene will have to stand trial on felony charges relating to the November crash, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled Dec. 3.
After hearing testimony from the victims and authorities, Judge Runston Maino denied attorney Herb Weston’s request to have his client’s charges reduced to a misdemeanor. Maino cited the defendant’s actions, fleeing and high-rate of speed, as reasons for denying the request.
“The fleeing, Mr. Weston, is what gets me,” Maino said. “He must have been going extremely fast for this to happen.”
Joaquin Romero is charged with driving under the influence and hit and run, both felonies, relating to a Nov. 13 three-car accident on Highway 76 at Loretta Street in Oceanside.
With an accident of this magnitude, Romero should have known there was a likelihood of injuries, Maino added.
Police said he had a blood-alcohol level of .19, which is more than two times California’s legal limit of .08.
He faces up to six years in prison if convicted, Deputy District Attorney Laura Hauf said outside the courtroom.
Under California law, a DUI with an injury or hit and run with an injury can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
The six people involved in the accident only suffered minor injuries —bruising and soft tissue damage — Hauf said.
Because of Romero’s nonexistent criminal record, ties to the community, and the lack of any significant injuries, Maino granted Weston’s request for a bail reduction; Romero’s bail was reduced from $150,000 to $25,000.
Despite the reduction, Romero still has to clear up an immigration hold before he can be released from custody.
His next scheduled court appearance is a Dec. 23 readiness hearing. Romero’s trial date was set for Jan. 21.