Nevada man in fatal crash that killed 2 kids may drive again

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Posted: Sep 24, 2015 6:22 PM
Nevada man in fatal crash that killed 2 kids may drive again

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada man facing a potential criminal charge after crashing through a house and killing two young children can't be banned from getting back on the road.

Though the 66-year-old motorist was driving with a medical condition and has a history of license suspensions, Nevada law has no provision for permanently revoking a driver's license, even if the person is convicted of a driving-related crime.

In June, Sheldon Berg was behind the wheel when an SUV drove through the backyard of a home in a working-class neighborhood of Reno, Nevada. The crash killed a 2-year-old boy, Sabadel Gomez Rubio, and 4-year-old girl, Desdeiry Candelaria Gomez Rubio.

Berg has not yet been charged in the deaths, although his license is currently cancelled.

A neighbor described the SUV as "going like a bat out of hell" as it plowed through a T-intersection before hitting the house. Police have said Berg may have had a medical episode.

Karl Hall, the Reno city attorney, said Berg was hospitalized briefly after the crash but wanted his license back. Reno police drove him to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and notified officials of the incident to have his license cancelled in July.

"We certainly didn't want to be responsible (for his driving)," Hall said. "Obviously, the whole point here is to prevent him from driving and endangering other people."

But Nevada has no permanent revocation process for driving privileges, meaning even a mandatory license suspension would end at some point. Unless otherwise ordered by a judge, the driver could apply for another license. However, DMV license reviewers could impose restrictions to make it harder to obtain, such as testing or physician letter requirements.

"The bottom line is he is not barred for life. He could get it back," said Kevin Malone, spokesman for the Nevada DMV.

Berg could not be reached for comment. His mother, who previously confirmed he had an on-going medical condition, declined to speak about the case. The victims' family attorney could not be reached for comment.

Hall said he'll decide next week if he'll pursue vehicular manslaughter charges. If convicted, Berg could face six months of jail and a $1,000 fine, with penalties doubled if a judge orders the sentences to run consecutively on behalf of each victim.

Authorities have ruled against felony charges, which would have required proving negligence.

Although police didn't submit the case to the Washoe County District Attorney's office for a formal review, a DA spokeswoman said a felony charge of reckless driving causing death would have been the most applicable crime to consider. The charge carries a maximum penalty of up to six years in jail, two years license suspension and $5,000 in fines.

The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is "essentially, a momentary lapse in judgment versus conscious disregard for safety," DA spokeswoman Michelle Bays said. "You have to be able to prove a state of mind of the person, what they're doing and the purpose behind it. It can be very difficult to prove."

The circumstances of Berg's medical condition are unknown. At the time of the crash, Berg had an active, restricted license issued in March that required an annual doctor's note.

He has been required to submit letters from a doctor certifying his ability to drive at least since 2013, when he was involved in an accident after suffering a medical episode, the DMV said. Police said Berg struck two unoccupied vehicles. His license was taken away March 6, 2013, and suspended about 12 weeks before being reinstated. The records provided to The Associated Press show he failed to submit to an examination in that case.

The DMV said it considers reissuing licenses on a case-by-case basis, so Berg could seek driving privileges as his latest case is pending. The state reports there are more than 2,800 drivers in Nevada with medical restrictions who have lost their licenses multiple times.