New facts change Nevada County vehicular manslaughter case |

New facts change Nevada County vehicular manslaughter case

A felony vehicular manslaughter case has been reduced to a misdemeanor after Nevada County prosecutors say they received more information about the fatal wreck.

Prosecutors opted for a lesser vehicular manslaughter charge against Joaquin Lopez Pinto, 28, of Honduras, after learning speed wasn’t the cause of the March 21 crash, Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said.

“Our main theory for the gross negligence was the high speed,” Walsh added.

Authorities initially believed that speed led to the collision that killed a 38-year-old woman. An investigation by the California Highway Patrol revealed it wasn’t, Walsh said.

Pinto can’t face a felony without gross negligence — in this case, high speed — leading Walsh last week to reduce the charge.

Pinto, who also faces a misdemeanor charge of failing to have a driver’s license, faces up to a year in jail if convicted of vehicular manslaughter.

Deputy Public Defender Micah Pierce, who represents Pinto, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Authorities arrested Pinto after the 9 p.m. March 21 wreck on Highway 49, near Alta Sierra Drive.

According to reports, Pinto was driving a 2006 silver Honda Civic north when he skidded off the road and struck a tree. His passenger, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, died. Suffering minor injuries, Pinto was treated at the hospital and then charged. He’s since made bond.

Pinto is in the country without legal permission, Walsh said. The immigration status played a role when determining his bond, but likely won’t affect his case.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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