Sunday, November 17, 2013

People v. Ochoa case brief

People v. Ochoa case brief summary
864 P.2d 103 (1993)

The State appealed a judgment of the Court of Appeals (California), which reversed defendant's convictions of vehicular manslaughter and two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, violations of Cal. Veh. Code § 20001 and Cal. Penal Code § 191.5(a), respectively.

Defendant was convicted of two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of vehicular manslaughter. The trial court admitted evidence of defendant's prior conviction for driving under the influence, his subsequent probation, and his attendance at traffic school, including an alcohol awareness class.


  • The court of appeals reversed the gross negligence convictions holding that the evidence was inadmissible to prove gross negligence. 
  • The appellate court accepted defendant's argument that because the gross negligence test was an objective test, i.e., whether or not a reasonable person in defendant's place would have been aware of the risks, evidence of defendant's subjective state of mind was irrelevant and unduly prejudicial. 
  • Reversing the judgment, the court held that, even using an objective test, the jury was entitled to relevant facts about what defendant knew, including his actual risk awareness. 
  • The court also held that there was no abuse of discretion in finding that the probative value of the evidence did not outweigh its prejudicial effect under Cal. Evid. Code § 352.

The court reversed the judgment with directions to determine defendant's remaining unresolved appellate issues.

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