Motor Vehicle Homicide
Motor Vehicle Homicide occurs when a driver operates a motor vehicle negligently or recklessly in a public way and causes the death of another person. That person can be a pedestrian, a driver or passenger in another car, or even a passenger in your own car. In Massachusetts, motor vehicle homicide can either be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor crime under Massachusetts General Law chapter 90 section 24G.
Felony motor vehicle homicide is charged when the driver is believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The requirements for a conviction are that the driver is operating a motor vehicle in a public way negligently or recklessly as so to endanger the lives of others and causes the death of another person while under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher or under the influence of other intoxicating substances such as drugs. The penalties for felony motor vehicle homicide include a mandatory minimum of one year in jail the House of Correction (county facility) and a maximum of up to fifteen years in state prison, as well as a fine up to $5,000. A conviction would result in a license loss of at least 15 years.
Misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide is defined similarly except that the driver does not have to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A person can be charged with misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide if the prosecution alleges that the driver was operating a motor vehicle and was either under the influence, operating the vehicle recklessly, or operating the vehicle negligently and it endangered the lives of others in a way that ultimately ended in the death of another person. The penalties for this crime include a House of Correction term up to 2 ½ years and a fine between $300 and $3,000. There is no mandatory minimum sentence. A person found guilty would also lose their license for 15 years.
Years ago I successfully convinced a jury of twelve that the wet road on which my client was speeding was so inherently dangerous in its design that her failure to stay within the designated lane of travel, which resulted in a single car crash that killed her passenger, was not the result of careless driving. This victory required calling my own expert – a highway design engineer – and successfully cross-examining an engineer from the Department of Transportation about the inherent dangerousness in the highway’s design. I also successfully challenged the prosecution’s accident reconstruction expert for giving an opinion that my client was at fault that was not supported by the physical evidence from the collision.
I have represented clients accused of motor vehicle homicide who suffered medical episodes just before the collision. Examples of health issues include seizures, hypoglycemia, and sleep apnea that could result in momentary lapses in one’s ability to safety operate a car with tragic results. A sudden medical episode no advanced warning to the driver is a defense to negligent or reckless driving. Defending these cases require careful consultation with medical experts to diagnose the condition and look for evidence that an episode occurred at the time of the collision. Accident reconstructionists also play an important role in these defenses because a person suffering from a medical episode is less likely to take evasive actions just before the collision, such as pressing on the brake or trying to swerve.
If you are accused of motor vehicle homicide you need an attorney with experience and expertise defending against these charges. Please contact my office for a consultation.