Teenager Sentenced to Twelve Years in Prison after Fatal DUI
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Dylan Morse, 18-year-old son of the Merced County,
California District Attorney has been sentenced to 12 years and 4 months in
prison, according to Lori A. Carter, reporting for the Santa Rosa Press
Judge Ken Gnoss made what he called an "extremely difficult"
decision last week when he sentenced Morse to what Carter calls one of the
harshest DUI sentences in the past decade, in response to the crash that killed
one man and left his best friend in a coma.
Morse will spend at least ten years in prison, following the
recommendation of the county probation department, which reported that he was "well aware" of the risks posed by a DUI offense.
"This was grossly unfair and unjust," says Morse’s lawyer,
Chris Andrian, who said that Morse was "appropriately remorseful" and seeking
Morse pled guilty to three felonies and three misdemeanors
connected to the February 14 collision that killed Berkeley art student and
musician Alex Ruiz, 22, and left two others with significant injuries,
including Ryne Spitzer, 19, who incurred permanent disabilities. Nonetheless, Spitzer’s family has protested
"We are trying to intervene on the excessive confinement
thrown at Dylan Morse," said Mark Spitzer, Ryne’s father. "This is not to lessen the devastating
effects of drinking and driving, but we are also talking about an 18-year-old
young man who needs a chance after any incarceration to still salvage a
productive and influential life. We will
try to help."
Gnoss said that he put himself in the position of Spitzer’s
family, and felt that Morse deserved the maximum punishment. He believed that Morse knew his behavior was
illegal and dangerous. In fact, just the
day prior to the accident, Morse had driven Spitzer to a court-ordered class
following his own DUI arrest.
Morse’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15% when he ran a
red light and smashed into Ruiz at Highway 116 and Stony Point Road.
Lynn Darst, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving advocate who
lost a daughter-in-law to a drunken driving accident in 2005 said she supported
"I believe it was too harsh to have Alexander Ruiz lose his
life as a result of two young men in a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. That was a harsh sentence for the Ruiz
Over the past decade, sentences handed down by judges in
Sonoma County have varied widely for DUI fatalities. Some defendants have received probation,
while others have been sentenced to a year or less in county jail.
In cases where the defendants had prior DUIs
or left the scene of the accident, they received sentences of up to nine years
in prison. The Press Democrats report no
cases with similar circumstances in a decade that received such a lengthy
prison sentence. The maximum sentence
for the offense is 15 years.
There are some concerns that the lengthy sentence factors in
the reality that Morse’s father is an elected prosecutor, which may affect his
treatment in prison and where he will be housed.
Rosa Press Democrat