Crime

Latest in case of crash that killed 8-year-old: bail still $1 million, Martzens want new DUI laws

Karmjit Singh, 35, was previously convicted of driving under the influence in 2016.
Karmjit Singh, 35, was previously convicted of driving under the influence in 2016. FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Calling him “an extreme danger to society” Fresno County Judge Jon Kapetan refused to lower the $1 million bail against Karmjit Singh, the man accused of crashing his BMW into family’s van and killing their 8-year-old son.

Scott and Megan Martzen were in the courtroom Thursday when Kapetan issued his ruling. She cried softly as the judge spoke. The family released a statement calling for tougher laws.

Singh’s lawyer, Sam Salhab, argued that his clients’ bail should be reduced since the District Attorney’s Office changed the original charge of murder to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. He’s also charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Singh, 35, has a DUI from Tulare County in 2016.

“The bail is set for a first-degree murder charge,” Salhab said Thursday.

Salhab also called into question the prosecution’s accusation that Singh was intoxicated at the time of the Feb. 23 crash. Blood tests revealed Singh’s blood alcohol concentration was .017, well below the legal limit of .08.

The crash happened on Feb. 23 just after 10 p.m. The Martzens were in a Kia Optima traveling eastbound on Rose Avenue at Bethel Avenue east of Selma when Singh ran the stop sign on northbound Bethel Avenue.

BMW traveling nearly 100 mph, CHP says

Singh’s BMW 750i was traveling at nearly 100 mph when it slammed into the passenger side of the Martzens’ car, pushing it into a tree, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Prosecutor Ryan Wells defended the $1 million bail saying Singh was responsible for the death of a child and causing serious injuries to the boy’s parents. Federal officials have put an immigration hold on Singh, who is a resident of India.

Attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt, who represents the Martzen family, said Singh has shown a “complete disregard” of vehicle laws by driving on a suspended license the day of the crash.

Kapetan’s ruling essentially keeps Singh in custody at the Fresno County Jail.

“I find that he is an extreme danger to society,” said Kapetan. “And he is a flight risk.”

Martzens want laws changed

In a statement, the Martzens say they are not happy that the murder charge was dropped but they understand that the prosecutor “can not charge him for something he can not prove under the law.”

They also call for reform of the sentencing laws related to DUI cases involving death.

“There is no reason someone with a prior DUI with any amount of alcohol in their system should be able to kill someone and only receive 6 years,” the statement says. “It should be treated like a second-degree murder.”

The Martzens would like to see a change in the sentencing laws at the federal level.

“We plan to take this to Congress and make amendments to the law to ensure another family doesn’t have to feel the injustice of the law,” the Martzens wrote.

Along with the criminal case against Singh, the Martzens have filed a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit against him.

They are seeking an unspecified amount of damages for the emotional distress caused by the crash.

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