MADD and other advocacy groups have made significant strides in raising awareness about the dangers associated with drinking and driving. However, driving while intoxicated is still a problem across the country. When a person intentionally drinks and then decides to drive, public outrage may demand justice for the loss of human life.
The strong support of communities, stricter laws, and advocacy groups such as MADD have all contributed to a decrease in drunk driving deaths over the years. One of the biggest problems on the roads today, in fact, is texting and driving which some studies suggest may even be more dangerous than drinking and driving. However, the first increase in drunk driving fatalities occurred in the second decade of the 21st Century, marking the first significant change in many years.
The public, legislators and advocacy groups have tried to counter the recent spike in the number of deaths by supporting new laws and legal theories that make more people responsible for contributing to the epidemic. Third parties can be held criminally responsible for allowing another person to drive drunk with their vehicle. This includes crimes such as culpable neglect. Bars and commercial establishments can be liable for serving alcohol to someone who injures or causes death in an alcohol-related incident. Dram shop laws make these establishments liable. Social host laws make private individuals who provide alcohol at their homes liable for someone who injures or causes death in an accident.
Sometimes, prosecutors might charge defendants with manslaughter if a death is caused by drinking or driving. If there is public outrage or aggravating circumstances, murder charges could be filed. In one Colorado case, an illegal immigrant, who had been convicted of DUI and was driving with a suspended license, killed a 17-year-old boy. The defendant attempted to flee from the accident scene. His BAC was four times higher than the legal limit.
Although many people view murder as premeditated killing in which the defendant has the intention to kill and can deliberate on it, this is not always the only possible scenario. If a person did intend to kill someone with the vehicle he or she was driving, certainly such a charge could be filed if the defendant had the requisite mens rea named in the statute.
If the defendant has an extreme indifference to human life or engages in acts that pose a grave danger of death, such charges could also be brought against him or her. Intent does not need to be proved under this legal theory. Instead, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s actions were so reckless and egregious it was possible to predict that death would happen.
This type of legal theory may be used by the prosecution to show that the defendant has a history of DUIs. California, for example, requires that criminal defendants make statements about the dangers of driving while under the influence. This type of statement could be considered an acknowledgement on the part of the defendant of the dangers of his or her actions.
The prosecution will also seek to prove that drunk driving is dangerous due to an elevated blood alcohol level. In such cases, the vehicle may be considered a dangerous weapon. This information can prove that the victim’s death could have been prevented and the defendant chose to drive anyway. The prosecutor might use this information to prove that the defendant fled the scene of an accident to avoid being held responsible. This can be used to infer guilt, as the defendant knows what he or she did and is trying cover it up.
Argument against Murder Charges
The defense lawyer of the defendant may argue that murder charges are too harsh and point out that similar cases are not usually charged with this type of crime. The defense lawyer may argue that the defendant didn’t have the mental state required to be charged under the criminal statute. This could include intent, willful conduct, or knowing acts.
A personal injury lawyer can help individuals who have been injured in an accident caused by drunk driving.