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Fatal Los Angeles DUI Crash in North Hills Takes Life of Teenage Girl

A teenage girl lost her life – and a man suffered serious injury – during a tragic Los Angeles DUI accident over the holidays. DUI-crash-ford-focus.jpg

Investigators believe that a 24-year-old driver from Van Nuys had been speeding in his 2009 Ford Focus on Roscoe Boulevard, when he lost control of the vehicle and rammed into a light pole. 19-year-old Jennifer Benga – a passenger in the Focus – died in the crash. Investigators found bottles of beer inside the car, and authorities suspect that the 24-year-old driver had been under the influence. The fatal disaster happened in the midst of county-wide saturation patrols that led to the arrest of over 2,200 people in the 20 days from December 13th to the New Year.

Many who read the primary source article might be struck by the odd, “indirectness” of the reporting. If police found bottles of beer in the car, why not start from the presumption that the driver, was, indeed, DUI, and then work backwards? After all, that seems like the most likely inference to make.

The rebuttal is fascinating. Jurisprudence has evolved some counterintuitive safeguards over the centuries. The notion that a defendant should be considered “innocent before guilty” is a relatively novel one in human history. But we have such legal structures in place to prevent people from being convicted for crimes they did not commit… and also to avoid a peculiar cognitive feature known as the anchoring effect.

The anchoring effect states that, when someone hears a number or a judgment, that number or judgment or anchor will dramatically influence future thinking. In his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” Nobel Prize-winning author, Dan Kahneman, writes about how the anchoring effect can be used to lead people to make wildly divergent guesses about the age of civil rights leader, Mahatma Gandhi. When anchored by a question to the effect of — “was Gandhi older or younger than 98 when he died?” — people guessed very relatively high ages (e.g. 70, 80, etc). When anchored by a question to the effect of — “was Gandhi older or younger than 35 when he died?” — whe guesses were much lower (e.g. 40, 50, etc). In other words, the number you hear first can influence your future judgments. This is true, even if you’re an expert, and if you strain against the influence of the anchor.

The same is likely true, on some level, with guilt and innocence in criminal cases. If you’re presumed guilty, it’s likely that a judge or jury will be more likely to consider you guilty, no matter what happens, because the label will act as an anchor.

Fortunately, we live in a system where fairness and justice can prevail. Of course, you still need to approach your Los Angeles DUI case strategically. To that end, connect with Attorney Michael Kraut and his seasoned legal team today for a free consultation.

Did the police arrest you for a DUI in Los Angeles? Contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut for assistance by phone at (323) 464-6453 or online. We’re located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, California 90028.

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