DWI defense is a challenge because there are strict laws cracking down on impaired drivers and because courts often want to send a message with tough verdicts to people accused of impaired driving. Because of the public attitude toward impaired driving, it is imperative to build a strong DUI defense to have a fair day in court and potentially avoid a conviction, penalties, and a criminal record.
One recent case shows just how far courts and juries are willing to go to try to impose responsibility when they believe someone is impaired behind the wheel. As Pix11 reported, a man was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, aggravated criminally negligent homicide, negligent homicide, assault, reckless driving, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. In total, he was found guilty of 10 charges related to the death of a police officer who was reportedly killed as a result of a DWI accident. The only problem: the driver who was convicted was not actually driving a car when the officer was killed.
Driver Convicted in Connection with DWI Accident
The driver convicted of the 10 charges reportedly had a blood alcohol concentration of between .13 and .14 after leaving a night club. He allegedly got into his car and got onto the expressway, where he struck a BMW. The BMW's steering wheel broke and the car was disabled, and the allegedly drunk driver left the scene of the crash. He then hit the brakes shortly before reaching an exit, and an off-duty police officer who was behind his vehicle slammed into the back of the car, fracturing his sternum and ribs.
The allegedly drunk driver's vehicle went into the HOV lane where it stayed. An officer arrived and was securing the scene. A black SUV subsequently approached and although the SUV slowed down to between 37 and 40 MPH, the driver did not see the officer. The SUV driver swerved, but not in time, and he struck the police officer and killed him. The driver of the SUV who actually hit the officer was not charged with a crime, however, and was given immunity after agreeing to testify against the motorist who was allegedly drunk.
The DWI driver was charged with the officer's death, among other charges. It was the first time a DWI driver was charged with manslaughter under similar circumstances where he was not actually driving a car which hit someone. If this trend continues, it essentially means someone who is accused of impaired driving could become responsible for any injuries or damages which occur in a series of events which he triggers, even though he is not actually driving at the time of the accident. It raises the question of exactly where to draw the line when trying to hold an impaired person accountable for injuries he did not directly cause when behind the wheel.