When an accident occurs when an allegedly impaired person is driving, this can result in very serious charges - especially if the accident causes an injury or a death. Typically, in a DWI accident case, a prosecutor shows a defendant was impaired and shows the defendant caused a crash to occur by driving while drunk and striking another car or another motorist. One recent case, however, involved a prosecutor trying to hold a defendant accountable for a collision which occurred even when the allegedly impaired defendant was no longer actively operating his vehicle.
The defendant ended up being convicted in the case, and Pix 11 indicates he was found guilty of 10 different offenses including manslaughter. The case was the first of its kind in which a DWI defendant was charged with manslaughter for a death he reportedly indirectly caused, even though he wasn't actually driving and didn't actually hit the person who was killed. It raises very important questions for when exactly an impaired driver can be charged with a crash and for how far a motorist's potential risk of liability could extend. It underscores the importance of having a strong defense, especially as prosecutors try to expand the scope of responsibility of people who allegedly drive while intoxicated.
Holding a Defendant Responsible for a Death When he Wasn't Driving
The case involved a motorist who reportedly had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of between .13 and .14. The impaired driver left a night club and was on the expressway. He allegedly hit a BMW, disabling the steering on the BMW, and then left the scene of this incident and continued driving. He subsequently stopped his car short before an exit, prompting an off-duty police officer to hit the back of the car which caused the off duty officer to experience several fractures. The car with the allegedly impaired driver subsequently came to a rest in the HOV lane.
Another police officer responded to the accident and was securing the scene. The allegedly drunk driver was no longer behind the wheel when an SUV approached the area. The driver of the SUV reportedly slowed down but didn't see the police officer who was on the scene and securing the area. The SUV driver tried to swerve the vehicle but couldn't swerve in time and hit the police officer, killing the officer.
It was the driver of the SUV who hit the officer, not the allegedly impaired driver who was not even behind the wheel at the time of the incident any more. Yet, the driver of the SUV didn't get charged with any crime and was in fact granted immunity because he agreed to testify. The allegedly impaired driver was charged with manslaughter and other crimes and was convicted on 10 counts. Motorists need to pay attention to the outcome of this case, because prosecutors could bring further similar prosecutions in the future and try to impose criminal responsibility on DWI defendants by claiming their actions were the triggering factor in a chain of events which led to a death even if they weren't the direct cause.