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Professor Facing Massachusetts Vehicular Homicide Charge after Fatal Plymouth Crash

A Boston University professor is facing a charge of vehicular homicide in Plymouth in the wake of an Oct. 7 crash that claimed the life of a 26-year-old Plymouth man.

Criminal charges stemming from fatal accidents are always serious. But the issues are often exacerbated by allegations of drunk or drugged driving. These cases should always be handled by an experienced Plymouth criminal defense attorney. In many cases, ” accidents” really are “accidents.” While tragic, criminal charges are often unwarranted. 1111010_motorcycle_reflections.jpg

Robert Zelnick, 71, of Brookline, is accused of turning his SUV into the path of a motorcycle driven by Brendan Kennedy, of Plymouth. The accident occurred on Clark Road in the vicinity of the Route 3 on-ramp.

A magistrate in Plymouth District Court found probable cause to charge Zelnick with failure to yield to oncoming traffic and motor vehicle homicide. His driver’s license was immediately revoked by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Under Massachusetts law (Chapter 90, Section 24G), a conviction for motor vehicle homicide is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a 15-year suspension of a defendant’s driver’s license.

In this case a Massachusetts defense attorney will carefully review the facts and circumstances of this accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports failure to yield is one of the leading causes of fatal motorcycle accidents in the United States. Often, this can be because the motorcycle is traveling too fast. In other cases, the setting sun or other visual obstructions may contribute to the accident. Proving the defendant was not responsible for the accident would typically result in a dismissal of the charges. Proving he was not solely responsible, or that mitigating circumstances exist, may result in a reduction or dismissal of the charges.

In order to be convicted of vehicular homicide in Massachusetts, the state must prove that you were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, or that you were operating recklessly or negligently, so that lives were endangered. And that as a result of such actions, a death occurred.

Applying the law requires a certain amount of common sense. After all, there is an at-fault party in every fatal accident. Theoretically then, in cases where an at-fault party survives a fatal accident, he or she could be charged with vehicular homicide. Yet that is not the case. These charges most often stem from drunk driving accidents — though there has been no public assertion that alcohol or drugs were involved in this case. In such cases, the defense attorney will work to defend a client from both the drunk driving charge and the allegation that he or she was responsible for causing the accident. If either can be disproven, a reduction or dismissal of the charges is possible.

Zelnick spent more than two decades working for ABC News before accepting a position at Boston University, where is is a professor of national and international affairs. The Boston Globe reports he is the author of four books and has worked as a reporter in Israel and Moscow and as a Pentagon correspondent.

Michael DelSignore is a criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts, who represents clients facing drunk driving charges, as well as other misdemeanor and felony offenses.

The Law Offices of Michael DelSignore are conveniently located in Stoughton, Attleboro, New Bedford and Westborough.

BU professor faces homicide charge in Plymouth crash, Dec. 22, 2011, Patriot Ledger.

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