Books
MICHAEL DELSIGNORE WROTE THE BOOKS ON MASSACHUSETTS OUICLICK HERE FOR A FREE CONSULTATION

Motor Vehicle Homicide

The circumstances leading to a motor vehicle homicide charge can vary greatly. Theses cases can be the result of texting while driving, speeding or using alcohol or drugs while driving. Unfortunately, sometimes a split second bad decision can cause an accident that results in death. It is important to understand how these cases are charged, your defenses and the possible penalties.

In Massachusetts motor vehicle homicide charges are governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24G. Depending on the circumstances a driver can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

What is a misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide?

A misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide charge is brought when there is evidence that a driver acted recklessly or negligently. In order to be found guilty of this charge the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person:

  1. Operated a motor vehicle,
  2. On a public way – a road or area where the public has a right away,
  3. And while operating on the public way
    1. Had a blood alcohol over .08, was under the influence of drugs, or
    2. Drove in a reckless manner, or
    3. Drove in negligent manner so that the lives and safety of the public might have been endangered
  4. And that operation caused the death of another person

The statute specifically uses the word or. This is important because if the Commonwealth has proof that a driver was operating under the influence and was operating recklessly they will charge the driver with felony motor vehicle homicide. Operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs for a misdemeanor is a rare charge. This is because typically if a death has been caused by an OUI there will be some evidence of negligent or reckless driving.

The penalty for a conviction of misdemeanor Motor Vehicle homicide is 30 days to two and a half years in the house of correction. There is a 30-day mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted. The RMV will also impose a fifteen-year license loss upon conviction.

What is Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide?

A driver charged with felony motor vehicle homicide faces serious life changing penalties. The difference between the misdemeanor and felony charge is that the felony charge requires evidence that the driver was operating under the influence AND operating recklessly. In order to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt the Commonwealth must show that the driver:

  1. Operated a motor vehicle,
  2. On a public way – a road or area where the public has a right away,
  3. And while operating on the public way Had a blood alcohol over .08, was under the influence of drugs, AND
  4. Drove in a reckless or negligent manner so that the lives and safety of the public might have been endangered
  5. And that operation caused the death of another person

The penalty for a conviction of felony Motor Vehicle homicide is one year to two and a half years in the house of correction or not less than two and a half years not more than fifteen years in prison. The statute does not allow for a continued without a finding and there is a one-year mandatory minimum for anyone convicted. The RMV will also impose a fifteen-year license loss upon conviction.

What are some of the defenses?

Any case that involves the death of a person is difficult and emotional to defend. An experienced defense attorney will argue to the judge or jury that it is their duty to look beyond the emotional response. They will also be able to look at the case objectively and determine your best defense.

The driver was not under the influence

In cases involving driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol the Commonwealth must prove that the driver was “under the influence” not just that he/she had alcohol or took a drug. This means that they must prove that the drugs or alcohol decreased the driver’s reflexes or “alertness” so that they were left with a reduced ability to drive. The Commonwealth often attempts to prove this by field sobriety test or breath test evidence. Much of the Commonwealth’s evidence will rely on officer testimony. An experienced defense attorney will file motions to suppress breath test evidence and will cross examine the officer to determine a driver’s actual performance on the field sobriety tests.

The accident was not caused by reckless or negligent driving

In many motor vehicle homicide cases the Commonwealth will rely on reports and testimony by accident reconstruction experts. The only person who truly knows how the accident occurred is the driver. The reconstruction “expert” will attempt to show negligent or reckless driving through tire marks, yaw marks and witness accounts. This evidence is all subject to cross examination. Additionally, a defense attorney may be able to find flaws in the reconstruction experts methods or report.

In some instances, the officer who responded to the crash may even attempt to testify to the cause of the accident. However, the law requires that experts be qualified. An experienced defense attorney may be able to keep out any testimony by an officer who is not qualified by the court as an expert reconstruction witness.

This is not an exhaustive list of all possible defenses. Each case will present with different facts and should be discussed with an attorney. A motor vehicle homicide charge is serious and the Commonwealth will vigorously prosecute the charge. If you have been charged with a motor vehicle homicide offense, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can analyze the facts in your case and discuss your possible defenses. The attorneys at DelSignore Law handle motor vehicle charges throughout Massachusetts and can be reached at 781-686-5924 if you have any questions about your case.