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Teen Driver in Fatal Crash Recommended For Special Probation Program

A teen driver charged in connection with a Santa Maria crash where a 17-year-old girl died may enter a guilty plea to lesser charges under a special probation program that, if successfully completed, would lead to having his juvenile record sealed.

On Friday, Santa Maria Juvenile Court Judge Arthur Garcia reluctantly continued the suitability hearing against the boy, whose name has not been released by authorities due to his age, at the request of prosecutors until March 27.

Prosecutors said they needed more time to contact the victim’s family.

The teen boy, a Pioneer Valley High School student, is accused of racing with Righetti High School senior Breanna Rodriguez on East Donovan Road, where she lost control of her vehicle and crashed into a utility pole Jan. 30. She later died of her injuries.

The hearing already had been continued from March 13 at the request of the teen driver’s attorney, Billy Redell, who just received the suitability report he said is favorable to the teen.

In that report, the Probation Department recommended the judge grant a deferred entry of judgment, which is a program passed by voters in 2000 as Proposition 21 to provide an alternative to the juvenile-delinquency process.

Under a deferred entry of judgment, a first-time offender charged with a felony can plead guilty and must successfully complete probation before a Juvenile Court would dismiss the case and seal the minor’s arrest and court records. 

Redell said the proposal, which prosecutors are still considering, would involve amending the original charges against the boy.

The teen would plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, plus a new count of participating in a speed contest, while the vehicular manslaughter charge would be dismissed.

“That’s on the table. … That’s what we’re shooting for,” Redell said. 

The teen’s sentence would include one year of probation.

“That would allow him to go through the probation period and have the case dismissed as if the charges essentially never occurred,” Redell said.

Community service and restitution also may required by the judge.

The deferred entry of judgment program is designed for teens like the one charged in this case, Redell said. 

The boy reportedly is a top student and active in school activities, including sports. He spent a few days in Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, but now is under house arrest.

For each court hearing, he is accompanied by multiple friends.

During his first appearance in juvenile court just days after the crash, Rodriguez’s mom asked the court for mercy, noting that her daughter participated in the street racing and wouldn’t want someone else to suffer for her actions.

Isabel Rodriguez also called the boy “a good young man” and said to him, “It wasn’t your fault. I hope you don’t feel that way.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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