Prescription-Drug-Impaired Driver to be Sentenced for Fatal Crash

A 22-year-old man convicted of killing a 14-year-old bicyclist while texting and driving under the influence of two different prescription drugs could get 10 years in prison when he is sentenced today.

Jeffrey Woods was found guilty on November 2 of one felony count of vehicular manslaughter by unlawful act with gross negligence while intoxicated and one felony count of driving under the influence causing bodily injury in the death of Danny Oates.

Woods faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a minimum of probation for the killing, according to Deputy District Attorney Susan Price.

Prosecutors say Woods was driving erratically and following too closely to other vehicles when he was driving eastbound on Indianapolis Avenue in Huntington Beach, California, on August 29, 2007. He was also under the influence of controlled substances, Vicodin and Xanax, and was sending text messages while driving, attorneys said.

Woods was sending text messages to his friends, prosecutors said, attempting to illegally obtain Vicodin and Xanax. The last text message he sent was one minute before the crash and read, “Need bars?” “Bars” is a street term for Xanax, attorneys said.

Witnesses say Woods suddenly swerved in his pick-up truck over several lanes into oncoming traffic and crossed into the bike lane on the wrong side of the road, crashing into 14-year-old Daniel Oates. Oates, who was riding his bicycle, was thrown over 200 feet and landed in a traffic lane. The defendant then crashed into a palm tree, drove through a wall, and came to a stop in the backyard of a nearby home.

Oates was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, but he died from multiple blunt force injuries caused by the impact of the crash. Oates was riding with his best friend to pick up their class schedules in anticipation of the new school year. Oates, who was nicknamed “Oatie,” was a junior lifeguard.

The defense had claimed that Woods suffered a seizure while driving and was unconscious at the time of the crash and was later diagnosed with epilepsy.

If the judge decides to give Woods prison time, there is a four-, six-, and 10-year option. Woods could also get credit for good behavior while in custody, which cuts each of those options in half. This means that Woods could serve a maximum of five years in prison.

The case was the Orange County District Attorney’s office’s first prosecution of a felony manslaughter jury trial that involved text messaging.

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