On Dec. 11, 2011, Oscar Paz Hernandez rear ended another driver's vehicle in Orange County and fled the scene.
The incident gave the victim serious and permanent injuries.
In the view of Superior Court Judge James Edward Rogan the outcome could have been worse because Hernandez left his victim unconscious in the fast lane and facing oncoming traffic, according to court records.
Filing a post-conviction appeal after the Orange County District Attorney's office won its case, Hernandez believed he was entitled to a punishment no greater than probation or the low term of two years of incarceration, a stance Rogan rejected.
The California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana considered Hernandez's complaint and noted that Rogan, a former Republican congressman from 1997 to 2001, thought the defendant's flight from the scene was particularly egregious given the victim's condition and, thus, not worthy of leniency.
Following a July 2012, jury trial, Rogan even contemplated handing Hernandez the maximum four-year punishment, but finally settled on a slightly lower term.
To Hernandez, his punishment was nevertheless blatantly unfair.
But a three-justice appellate panel–William Rylaarsdam, Kathleen O'Leary and David Thompson–determined this month that Rogan's sentencing order was righteous.
“When a judgment of imprisonment is to be imposed and the statute specifies three possible terms, the choice of the appropriate term shall rest within the sound discretion of the [trial judge],” the justices wrote.
They believe there is no evidence that Rogan's decision wasn't sound.
Upshot: Hernandez's rap sheet will continue to show felony hit and run with a recorded punishment of three years.