On New Year's Eve a tragic accident took the life of an 80-year-old Santa Cruz man and injured the three occupants of another car. The three injured men are in their 20s who all survived the crash. Now the family of one of the injured men wants to clear the name of the 80-year-old driver who police cited for DUI after the crash based upon suspicion.

The day after the accident, a CHP officer told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that the fatal accident was "possibly DUI related." On January 2, 2010, the officer was quoted in the newspaper saying the 80-year-old driver was suspected to be driving under the influence.

Law enforcement reportedly observed the man at the scene of the accident, which occurred around 4:45 a.m. The CHP officer reportedly questioned the man as he lay on a stretcher at the scene of the accident. The man reportedly died later in the evening at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

The case load at the Santa Cruz Coroner's office regularly delays toxicology reports for a number of months. In March, the coroner reportedly released the toxicology report showing that the man had no alcohol or any illicit drug in his system. The normal medications detected in the man's system would not cause impairment, and would not serve as a basis for a California DUI charge.

Now, the mother of a 24-year-old man injured in the accident wants to clear the name of the 80-year-old driver. She realizes that the man was cited for DUI and the accident was reported in the paper. She says "no one should have that on them until they're proven guilty. That's why they are called accidents." The Santa Cruz man was cited for DUI, but never had his day in court to clear his name as he died at the hospital shortly after the accident.

The officer who was quoted as saying the crash was possibly DUI related reportedly has said "we make mistakes." The officer reportedly has said that non-alcohol related DUIs often occur in the early morning hours. The CHP says officers are trained in recognizing signs of intoxication. The March 12, toxicology report from the Santa Cruz County Coroner's Office is evidence that the CHP officer's suspicions of DUI were unwarranted.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Lab test clears deceased Santa Cruz man of DUI suspicion," Stephen Baxter, 13 Nov 2010