Doctor who intentionally drove his family off cliff could dodge criminal charges: report

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

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PASADENA, Calif. – The California doctor who intentionally drove his wife and children off a cliff in their Tesla will be placed into a mental health program and could avoid criminal charges altogether.

San Mateo Superior Court Judge Susan Jakubowski granted radiologist Dharmesh Patel, 42, admission into a two-year psychiatric diversion program last week, and he will soon be released from jail, Pasadena Now reported.

Patel was driving with his wife and two young kids along Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay near San Francisco on Jan. 2, 2023, when he hurtled over a stretch known as Devil’s Slide and crashed onto a rocky beach below.

The family miraculously survived the 300-foot plunge, but Patel’s wife suffered severe spinal injuries.

Asserting that he was in the grip of a psychotic episode during the incident, Patel’s family has continued to support him.

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His attorney lobbied for the mental health diversion program, while prosecutors argued that he deserved to be tried on three counts of attempted murder.

The judge ruled Thursday in Patel’s favor.

Mercury News reported that Patel’s family was joyous in the wake of the decision outside court, and they could be seen hugging each other.

His wife, Neha, testified on his behalf.

“We need him in our lives, and it has been over a year and a half since my children or I have seen or spoken to Dharmesh,” Neha said, according to the local news outlet. “We are not a family without him.”

Defense lawyer Joshua Bentley argued at the hearing that his client had been suffering from paranoid episodes prior to the failed murder-suicide bid and stressed that he had no prior criminal history.

“It’s important to understand why we are here. Not everyone who commits a crime is a criminal,” he said. “There is no question this is a very serious case. But the law encompasses this very situation.”

Bentley said Patel was convinced that the world was careening toward disaster and obsessed over crises like the Ukraine war and fears his children would be sold into sex slavery.

Prosecutors countered that Patel posed a danger to the public and had not been forthright. He initially told police the crash was an accident, claiming there was a problem with his Tesla tires.

The judge found that Patel suffered from major depressive disorder and was “by all accounts a kind and loving” person who would benefit from treatment, Pasadena Now reported.

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Patel, who is being held without bail, will be released to his parents to begin the treatment program. He will have to wear a GPS monitor and cannot contact his wife or children due to a protective order. He is also prohibited from practicing medicine.

If he successfully completes the program, prosecutors will be forced to drop all charges against him, according to the news site.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.