Chase suspects could face murder charges in deadly pursuits if Fresno case sets legal precedent

FRESNO, Calif. (KABC) -- A groundbreaking case coming out of Fresno County involving a deadly pursuit could have lasting ramifications in Southern California

Reckless and dangerous high speed pursuit suspects could potentially face harsher punishments.

If someone is killed, instead of manslaughter charges, suspects could face murder charges.

"It will put everybody else on notice in other high speed pursuit cases...they better think twice or they could be looking at murder charges," said criminal defense attorney, Lou Shapiro.

The potential change comes because of Cline Garner.

Garner is accused of wrecking a motorcycle at 100 miles per hour and killing his passenger, all while trying to get away from deputies.

It's the first time he's accused of killing anyone in a pursuit, but it's the second time he's accused of leading authorities on a chase.

Prosecutors want to convict him for murder.

"In a manslaughter case, the sentence includes a definitive term...Five years, seven years, eight years and so forth. In a murder case such as this, it's an indeterminate sentence. So, 15 to life would mean he doesn't know when he would get out," said Shapiro.

He added that this is something you would typically see in a DUI case.

"Someone gets convicted of a regular DUI and they're warned by the judge that if it happens again and somebody gets killed you could be charged with murder," he said.

Garner's case mirrors that logic.

"This is the first time we've seen somebody in a pursuit situation that results in the death of somebody else charged with murder. We've seen manslaughter, but not second degree murder. That's a whole other level," said Shapiro.

Garner is set to enter a plea next week for a murder charge.
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