By Lauren Zaren
“You lucked out.”
In the early morning of August 11, 2018, 20-year-old Dru Skye Hernandez and his male friend drove from Weimer in Placer County to a Snapchat friend’s house in West Sacramento. The three met for the first time in person that day, but they were not able to hang out as planned. Hernandez and his friend had been drinking wine, and perhaps beer, starting several hours before their trip, which ended abruptly in a terrible collision.
While merging onto U.S. Hwy. 50 from Harbor Boulevard, the Range Rover crashed into a semi-truck and proceeded to roll over three times across the freeway. Hernandez and his friend only sustained minor injuries.
Their new acquaintance was not quite as lucky. She was 30 weeks pregnant at the time – and thankfully the baby was unaffected by the crash, was delivered successfully, and is perfectly healthy. The woman sustained several injuries, including severe bruising from the seatbelt and a stage two soft tissue spleen injury, and she was bloodied with cut-up arms and wrists.
The female victim was the first to testify in court, recounting the traumatic events of that day. She claimed that Hernandez’s friend was drinking beer in the car, but as they entered the freeway, the defendant asked his friend to “pour me up,” and sipped the beer from a red cup seconds before the collision occurred.
She complained about lingering pain in her left shoulder, which left her unable to lift heavy objects or hold her newborn baby for long periods of time.
The victim explained that she had been talking to the defendant’s friend over Snapchat, and did not expect both young men to pick her up. She also claimed that, shortly after the crash, Hernandez tossed the red cup out of the vehicle and threw the beer bottle over a nearby fence line.
California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Martin was next to testify. He substantiated the victim’s claims about the red cup and beer bottle, but these items were never photographed or booked into evidence.
Officer Pandi Crandall also responded to the crash, and testified that she observed convincing signs of the driver’s intoxication. She noted the odor of alcohol, his red, watery eyes, rapid speech, and unsteadiness on his feet. He performed poorly on several field sobriety tests but initially denied that he had consumed alcohol.
Shortly after, however, he consented to two Blood Alcohol Content tests, which read .12 and .11, both in excess of the .08 BAC limit for drivers. Dru, only 20 at the time, was arrested and brought to the police station where a later test read .13.
Officer Crandall agreed with Defense Attorney Peter Tiemann, who mentioned that Range Rovers tend to be top heavy and that there had been crashes at the same location before. She did not personally see any alcoholic beverages in the car or on the ground nearby, but remembered hearing about the red cup and beer bottle from other officers.
The final witness was Hernandez’s friend, who admitted that they both had been drinking hours before they made the drive to West Sacramento. He claimed that they had boxed wine in the defendant’s parked car outside his house, but that once the trip began, he drank a Miller High Life – but that Hernandez did not have any more alcohol.
Hernandez’s friend testified, contrary to the victim’s claim, that he was the one who threw the bottle and cup out of the vehicle and over a fence, because he did not want to get in trouble for having an open bottle after the crash.
Hernandez was originally charged with two felony counts, the first being a DUI with injury, and the second for driving a vehicle with a BAC over .08.
Defense Attorney Tiemann argued that because the defendant is young and has a clean record, his charges should be reduced to misdemeanors under California Penal Code section 17(b). Judge Janene Beronio was sympathetic to this case and granted this reduction.
After a short discussion with his attorney and family members, Dru pled no contest to both charges. He will be placed on probation for three years, with the added stipulation that he cannot enter any establishment where alcohol is sold while on probation. This addition was based on the fact that he was not yet the legal drinking age at the time of the accident.
He was directed to complete a program lasting three to six months subject to the DMV’s discretion, and will have his license suspended for one year. If he does not complete a program, he must serve a sentence of 50 days in jail.
Finally, he will be required to wear a SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring ankle bracelet for six months, with the chance to take it off after 30 days with no violations. He is also required to install an IID, or Ignition Interlock Device, on his car for the first year after he gains back his license. He owes a $3,279 fine and the case may require a restitution hearing in the future to determine any additional fees or support to be paid to the victim.