Early on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, Shayla Joseph and her 9-month-old daughter were headed southbound on the feeder road of the Gulf Freeway near Clear Lake at El Dorado. Suddenly, an SUV traveling at a high speed slammed into the back of the compact car in which they were riding, killing both.
The lives of both were ended by an intoxicated driver, authorities allege. They have charged 20-year-old Veronica Rivas with two counts of intoxicated manslaughter, a second degree felony. Law enforcement officials allegedly observed signs of alcohol impairment during their investigation, and Rivas’ blood alcohol content was reportedly 0.21, more than double the legal limit of 0.08.
Rivas is free on a $60,000 bail. State District Judge George Powell imposed bail conditions requiring a GPS ankle monitor, confining her to her residence, and prohibiting her from driving, except to court. If she is convicted, she faces 20 years in prison for each second degree felony.
Prosecutors have reason to believe Rivas was coming from an establishment that served her the alcohol, and are investigating to determine if charges should be brought against it.
This horrific event is terrible for all involved. Most importantly, the family, and loved ones of Shayla Joseph and her daughter are mourning their untimely deaths. But, in addition, Rivas has drastically damaged her own life and brought grief to herself and her family.
Officials need to investigate thoroughly the circumstances under which Rivas obtained the alcohol she reportedly consumed. If Rivas is convicted in accordance with due process of law, the criminal justice system should impose punishment upon her that is just and that sends a message to all. The message needs to warn all who would drink and drive that recklessly imposing risks upon themselves and other motorists will not be tolerated. In addition, if a bar or restaurant served Rivas unlawfully, its owners must be brought to justice. And the message from their prosecution should also inform any who would serve alcoholic beverages to underage patrons that they too will face punishment.
Finally, though nothing can replace the loss of life, the civil justice system may further be called upon to provide justice for the victims.