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Zaon Collins’ lawyers ask high court to toss DUI charge in fatal crash

Updated January 13, 2022 - 6:43 am

Lawyers for former UNLV basketball recruit Zaon Collins are asking the Nevada Supreme Court to order the dismissal of a DUI charge against the former top prospect arising from a deadly 2019 crash.

In court documents filed Tuesday, attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld argued that the charges are based on unconstitutional state laws regarding driving while under the influence of marijuana.

The lawyers have said Collins was not impaired by marijuana at the time of the Dec. 30, 2019, crash that left 52-year-old Eric Echevarria dead. Collins, 19 at the time, was driving his 2016 Dodge Challenger at nearly 90 mph in a 35 mph zone when he crashed into a 2016 Hyundai Accent driven by Echevarria, police have said.

Las Vegas police have said Collins had 3 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in his system. The legal limit for drivers in Nevada at the time of the crash was 2 nanograms per milliliter.

Collins’ lawyers have said that the level of THC in Collins’ system was so low, it could have been consumed days before the crash.

Chesnoff and Schonfeld have argued that a new state law, enacted July 1, should apply to Collins’ case because it is still being litigated. That statute removed a prohibition on specific amounts of marijuana in a driver’s blood for misdemeanor cases but maintained the limit in felony DUI cases.

The lawyers also argued the new state law is unconstitutional in part because it relies on different standards for misdemeanor and felony cases.

The “arbitrary” 2 nanogram limit was set in 1999 based on the minimum level of THC that technology at the time could test for, according to Tuesday’s court documents.

“It is clear that there was no rational basis in determining that the 2 nanogram level was appropriate for considering whether a person was impaired for criminal DUI purposes,” Chesnoff and Schonfeld wrote.

They have also argued that the Clark County district attorney’s office should not have continued to pursue felony DUI and reckless driving charges against Collins after a grand jury in March refused to return an indictment on the DUI count.

Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum refused to dismiss the charges in July. On Friday, District Judge Susan Johnson filed court papers refusing to reverse Baucum’s decision.

“At a hearing on this matter the District Court stated twice that this was a ‘close one,’” Chesnoff and Schonfeld wrote in Tuesday’s court documents. “Specifically, the court stated. … ‘You certainly have an issue to take up to the Nevada Supreme Court and maybe this will be the one case.’”

Although the grand jury only approved one of the charges against Collins, prosecutors continue to pursue both counts in the lower court and have said they would push for a preliminary hearing for a justice of the peace to decide if there is enough evidence for Collins to stand trial.

A status check in Collins’ case is scheduled for Feb. 3 in Las Vegas Justice Court.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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