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Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Offenses

Many cities across the country use unreliable measures to justify racially motivated, unconstitutional, stops and searches disguised as a traffic stop. In Commonwealth v. Bailey-Sweeting, the Supreme Judicial Court has the opportunity to make one of these incidents right.

Despite the Black population of New Bedford making up just 7% of the city’s population, Black people accounted for 46% of those subjected to police field incidents since 2020. New Bedford has cracked down on suspected gang activity in recent years, and the racial disparities appear here as well. Nearly 1 in 10 Black males living in New Bedford are labeled as verified gang members by the city.

What happened in the Bailey-Sweeting case?

Leaving the Scene of Personal Injury in Massachusetts is prohibited by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24(2)(a1/2(1).  The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently discussed in the case of Commonwealth v. Hector Rico, decided in December of 2020 what the Commonwealth would have to prove to obtain a conviction on this charge.  The issue before the Court was whether the defendant had to know there was an accident and also have knowledge that someone suffered injury.

The Appeals Court found that the Commonwealth must establish the defendant’s knowledge on both elements of the offense.

The Leaving the Scene Statute states:  Whoever operate a motor vehicle upon any way . . . And without stopping and making his known his name, residence and registration number of his motor vehicle, goes away after knowingly colliding with or otherwise causing injury to any person not result in death she be punished.

A judge in Iowa recently dismissed “Bachelor” Chris Soules constitutional challenge to an Iowa law, which requires any surviving driver involved in a fatal accident to remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives. Soules’ argument comes as he is trying to avoid prison, after fatally rear-ending a neighbors tractor; Soules was ultimately charged with leaving the scene of a fatal car crash, a class D felony charge, for his role in the April accident that resulted in the death of his neighbor. If convicted of the crime, Soules could face up to 5 years in an Iowa State prison.

The law in which Soules is seeking to challenge states specifically that “a surviving drier shall promptly report the accident . . . and should immediately return to the scene of the fatal accident or inform law enforcement where he or she can be located following the accident”. Prosecutors in the case are making their arguments clear that Soules completed neither of the above-mentioned requirements. He left the scene following the accident and did not attempt to make his whereabouts known to authorities.

Soules attorneys worked to highlight many of the steps Soules took following the incident to help his neighbor; he called 911 following the accident and identified himself as being involved in the accident, administered CPR to the suffering victim, and remained at the scene until the ambulance arrived. The major issue surrounding the case is that Soules was driven home before law enforcement arrived.

What are the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident?  This depends on whether the accident involved only property damage or personal injury.  If only property damage is at issue, the case is easier to resolve.

In Massachusetts, anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident on a public road is required to stop and give his name, address, and car registration number to any other individual or vehicle operator involved in the collision.

If property is damaged in addition to the motor vehicles involved, or if people are injured in the collision, the operators are also required to give their information to the owner of the damaged property. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges, with hundreds to thousands of dollars in fines and years of confinement.

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