Tesla Driver in Fatal Model S Crash in CA Gets Probation
Written by Simon Alvarez, Teslarati
Published July 3, 2023
The driver of a Tesla involved in a crash in California in 2019 that caused the deaths of two people in another car has been sentenced to two years of probation, after pleading no contest to two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
The case is significant as it is believed to be the first felony prosecution in the U.S. involving a driver who was using a driver-assist system like Tesla's Autopilot.
At a preliminary hearing in March 2022, prosecutors said Kevin George Aziz Riad was driving the Model S when it ran a red light at Vermont Avenue in Gardena, CA, at 74 mph, resulting in a fatal collision with a Honda Civic. Riad was believed to be operating the Tesla on Autopilot when the crash occurred.
The crash resulted in the deaths of Gilberto Alcazar Lopez, 40, and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, 39. Relatives of the victims said the couple was on their first date at the time of the crash. Riad and his girlfriend, who was a passenger in the Tesla, suffered minor injuries and were hospitalized.
As reported by the Daily Breeze, Riad entered a no contest plea June 22, and immediately received his sentence: probation, 31 days of work for Caltrans or another approved group, 100 hours of community service, 90 days of house arrest and participation in a hospital and morgue program.
Tatevik Tigranyan, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said if Riad violates his probation, he could face a four-year prison sentence.
During the legal proceedings, the prosecution said Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control in the Model S were engaged at the time of the collision. A Tesla engineer who testified in the case noted sensors in the vehicle showed Riad had his hand on the steering wheel. However, crash data showed no brakes were applied in the six minutes prior to the accident. Tesla constantly reminds its customers to pay close attention to the road when using features like Autopilot or Full Self-Driving to avoid potential accidents.
Riad’s defense attorney, Arthur Barens, had previously argued for the charges to be reduced to misdemeanors, asserting any negligence by Riad would have resulted in a citation had the fatal crash not occurred. However, the judge disagreed with the defense attorney’s argument.