A fatal DUI case heavily covered in the Fresno media has finally come to an important turning point. Nearly two years ago, 24-year-old Regan Johnson was hit by a car as she worked on a highway re-paving project on Highway 99. Johnson was a recent graduate of Fresno State University and was working part-time as a construction worker. Alyssa Villanueva, 26, was later arrested for driving through the construction zone and killing Johnson. She was driving with a suspended license and had a prior DUI arrest as well. Villanueva, a mother of three young children and Fresno resident, fled the scene without reporting the incident but later admitted to hitting Johnson.
Rather than continuing to fight the murder charges facing her, Villanueva recently agreed to a plea deal which will likely lead to a sentence of 17 years in prison. In court in late April, Villanueva admitted to driving drunk and taking the young woman's life. Making a choice to drive drunk was a serious lapse in judgment but leaving the scene of the crash was truly tragic and certainly made Villanueva's legal challenges more complicated.
Many DUI suspects believe that they have only three choices when they are arrested for driving drunk: argue with the police and assert their innocence; plead guilty and hope for mercy from the court; or flee from the police. But there is another choice.
Anyone arrested for DUI should politely decline to speak with the police and call an experienced DUI defense attorney immediately. Even if Villanueva was arrested at the scene and appeared guilty, a skilled attorney may have limited her exposure to the most severe penalties or may have been able to identify errors the police made during her arrest. There may have also been errors made in the handling of evidence after the arrest. Clearly Villanueva made many poor decisions. Calling a Fresno criminal defense attorney as soon as the crash occurred would have likely reduced her chances of spending nearly two decades in prison.