A suspected drunken driver now sought by police should have been charged with DWI instead of being freed after a fatal traffic accident, a prosecutor said.
Florian Quintanilla-Riva on April 4 allegedly drove the wrong way in his car and hit an SUV, according to police accident reports. An SUV passenger, Steven James, 79, died two days later.
An intoxication manslaughter charge was filed April 10, police spokesman John Cannon said Thursday.
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Quintanilla-Riva, 26, after the accident spent a night hospitalized, a night jailed and was then freed, according to KHOU-TV.
Assistant Harris County District Attorney Daniel Werlinger on Wednesday told the Houston Chronicle that Quintanilla-Riva should have been charged and held on a driving while intoxicated count.
"It's my understanding they sat on him at the hospital, then put him into custody at the jail once the hospital released him," Werlinger said. "He was supposed to be booked in on a DWI, but those charges weren't ever sent to the DA's office."
Quintanilla-Riva's blood alcohol level was 0.47, nearly six times the legal limit for driving, according to court records.
His mother, Rosa Riva, said her son came home after his release from jail, stayed about a week and police did not come looking for him, she told the Houston TV station. Her son possibly could be in the family's native El Salvador, she said.
Cannon on Thursday did not provide additional comment, other than a police statement saying the search continues in the ongoing investigation.
Richard Nguyen, an attorney for the James family, said it seems like there was no accountability whatsoever.
"They're obviously devastated and saddened by the loss of Steven James, father, devoted husband, and best friend, but at the same time they feel betrayed by the Houston Police Department," Nguyen said.