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San Diego Driving Under The Influence Accident: Sleep Apnea Defense Rejected, Defendant Guilty

The Carmel Mountain Ranch driving under the influence (DUI) accident that resulted in the death of Marc Durham, 65, concluded with a guilty verdict for Anthony Guarino, 57, on Thursday. Guarino was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and two DUI charges, according to 10news.com.

The defense conceded the misdemeanor DUI charges in closing, as Guarino’s blood alcohol content (BAC) measured .15 percent about two and a half hours after the crash. However, Guarino’s defense to the gross vehicular manslaughter charge was he was unconscious at the time of the crash due to “microsleep” that was brought on by severe sleep apnea. His car drifted, he never hit the brakes, and he had no memory of the accident.

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a person to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep. This can happen hundreds of times during the night, causing the sufferer to be exhausted for much of their waking hours. Driving is especially challenging because fatigue can lead to a “microsleep” espisode where the driver spontaneously falls asleep at the wheel.

Although this can be argued as a defense to a gross vehicular manslaughter charge, the jury in this case did not find that the defendant had a “microsleep” episode. Instead, they decided that he was driving under the influence with gross negligence, which caused the fatal accident. He faces up to 13 years in state prison when he is sentenced March 11, 2011.

Update: Guarino was sentenced to six years in prison. See posting on March 14, 2011.

Online Sources:
Driver Found Guilty In Fatal DUI Crash Case: 10news.com
Attorney: Driver’s Sleep Apnea Led To Fatal RB Crash: 10news.com
1 Dead After Driver Hits Vehicles At Stoplight: 10news.com
Sleep Apnea and Driving: sleepapnea.org
Sleep Apnea Information: sleepapnea.org
What Are Microsleeps?: sleepaccess.com