A little more than a year ago, 27-year-old Daniel Ivan Reyes drove to the store on his motorcycle to pick up a movie, “Finding Dory,” for his young son.
That same morning, Richard Gideon Hammond, also 27, smoked some marijuana and headed out on an errand, but somehow ended up driving nearly to the Mexican border.
Hammond pulled a U-turn on Interstate 5 and started north the wrong way, in southbound lanes. He made it three miles before crashing head-on into Reyes at full speed, killing the motorcyclist instantly just north of Dairy Mart Road on Dec. 3, 2016.
On Wednesday, Reyes’ family pleaded with a judge to send Hammond to prison for the longest possible time as they tearfully read statements about how much they missed the Chula Vista father of two boys, ages 2 and 5 when he died.
Chula Vista Superior Court Judge Garry Haehnle agreed with the family that Hammond deserved six years in prison for his February conviction on one count of gross vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
“He chose to smoke marijuana. He chose to drive a car,” Haehnle said. “It seems to me this guy doesn’t have any clue of what happened that night.”
He said he did not know where Hammond entered the freeway, but he would have passed several exits if he was trying to run an errand at a pharmacy.
The judge said authorities don’t know exactly how impaired by marijuana Hammond was that night because he was taken to a hospital and never given a field sobriety test by the California Highway Patrol.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Chandler said laboratory tests showed “a higher level of marijuana than they normally see.”
“This was a horrible crime that could have been avoided had Mr. Hammond made better decisions,” Chandler added.
In a statement after court, Chandler said a toxicologist could not exclusively attribute Hammond’s wrong-way driving to marijuana, but said it was consistent with marijuana use.
In California, it is unlawful to drive under the influence of any drug. Prosecutors must show that the driver was impaired, not simply that the driver took the drug and then drove. There is no exception for lawful users of medical marijuana.
Published: April 26, 2018
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