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Several suspects are under arrest in connection with the hit-and-run killing of three trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
Three 13-year-old girls were struck and killed by a driver while moving across a crosswalk in Santa Ana, California, on Friday night. According to the Los Angeles Times, police report the driver of a Honda CR-V was "going at a high rate of speed" when the SUV struck the girls; the vehicle was later found abandoned in a nearby parking lot.
What charges could the arrested individuals face for the Halloween hit-and-run deaths?
When drivers hit and kill pedestrians, it can be considered involuntary manslaughter, where a person's death results from the dangerous or reckless actions of the driver. Some states, like California, have a separate charge for deaths which are caused by motor vehicles, called vehicular manslaughter.
Depending on the degree of negligence or recklessness by the driver, a vehicular manslaughter conviction in California can mean anywhere from 16 months to 10 years in state prison. Higher degrees of punishment require a finding of gross negligence by the driver, which is very similar to recklessness in a civil context.
Hit-and-Run Felony Charges Likely
Although it was unclear as of Monday how many persons had been arrested in connection with the three girls' deaths, the driver can potentially be charged with felony hit-and-run. Every state has its own laws regarding hit-and-run drivers, but punishments generally increase when injuries or deaths result from hit-and-run collisions.
With twins Lexia and Lexandra Perez and their friend Andrea Gonzalez dying as a result of the hit-and-run incident, California prosecutors could charge those responsible with vehicular manslaughter. A conviction could mean an additional five years in prison for fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run.
Prosecutors typically won't pursue passengers in hit-and-run accidents, but it is possible for any passengers in this Halloween hit-and-run to be accessories after the fact. Those who help known felons hide or conceal a known crime can be charged with obstruction of justice or harboring a fugitive. It's likely that the passenger(s) who ran from the scene with the driver will face charges very similar to these.
In the meantime, the families of the three girls are mourning their passing. Andrea's brother, Josafat Gonzalez, 21, told the Times "the people who committed such a terrible crime will get their time in court and justice will be served."