The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the case of a drunken driver who was on probation for DUI when he led police on a July 2016 chase that ended with a three-vehicle collision in West Covina that left nine people injured.
Robert Anthony Lopez — who is serving a 24-year state prison term — was convicted in July 2017 of one count each of fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle causing serious bodily injury, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense and driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content causing injury within 10 years of another DUI offense.
Jurors also found true allegations that Lopez was previously convicted of driving with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content or more and reckless driving in 2015.
The La Puente resident had pleaded no contest to an additional charge — driving when his privilege was suspended or revoked — before his trial.
In October, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that jurors should not have heard evidence that Lopez tried to evade a police officer while driving a motorcycle when he was a juvenile in 2005 and that he was on probation for a 2015 DUI case.
“Here, the evidence of the 2005 incident was relevant to show defendant’s motive and intent in fleeing from police in 2016; specifically to avoid getting caught for violating the law,” the appellate court panel found in its Oct. 2 ruling. “The incidents were sufficiently similar because each involved defendant engaging in illegal activity prior to being pursued by police, an attempt by police to conduct a traffic stop of defendant using the police car’s lights and sirens, and defendant’s attempt to evade police.”
The justices also noted that the prosecution introduced evidence that Lopez was on probation in the 2015 DUI case “to establish a motive for evading the police.”
Lopez — who had a blood-alcohol content of 2 1/2 times the legal limit more than an hour after the July 18, 2016, crash — told police that he was speeding because he was trying to get away from someone who had pointed a gun at him, according to the ruling.
Police began chasing Lopez’s Acura after spotting it going above the speed limit and failing to brake at a stop sign, according to Deputy Los Angeles County District Attorney Lauren Guber.
Lopez’s car collided with a Nissan Maxima and a Ford Expedition at the intersection of Francisquito and Walnut avenues. Those injured included a 7-year-old girl and an 18-month-old girl, the prosecutor said.