Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Will I Be Arrested In Massachusetts If I Am In A Car Accident And There Is An Injury?

Bridgewater’s Patricia A. Neville-Colp (hereianfter, the “Defendant”) is facing that issue right now. On Saturday night, the State Police say that she was involved in a car accident in Stoughton. They say that, due to her actions, two people are seriously injured and one person is dead.

The Defendant will be making her way today into the Massachusetts criminal justice system by way of Stoughton District Court. She is charged with the Stoughton homicide and driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs. Apparently, she also had some drugs in the car when police arrested her.

Today on The Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog…when might you be charged with a MA motor vehicle crime as a result of an accident?

Attorney Sam’s Take On Automobile Accidents And Crimes

First of all, you have to understand that there are various types of automobile mishaps that can happen. Nearly all of them, under our usual definition of the word, are not intentional.

“So, isn’t that what makes the difference, Sam ? If it is intentional, then it is a crime, but if it is merely an accident, it is not a crime?”

Kinda-sorta, but it is not quite that simple.

Not every action that is considered a crime has to be, in itself, intentional. In some cases, the law determines that a certain amount of reckless disregard for the safety of others is as good as specific intent. For example, think about the crime of Operating To Endanger. That is basically a situation where no one really believes the driver wants to endanger people, but the driver’s operation of the vehicle is so reckless that it does, in fact, endanger others.

Likewise, there are certain types of homicide which do not allege an intentional killing, but, because of a reckless disregard, the responsibility is greater than the normal accident.

“What about cases which are simply accidental?”

Often, there are civil cases which result in those. In other words, there is an allegation of simple negligence and the injured party brings a lawsuit against the person they feel is responsible. In those cases, criminal court is usually not involved unless a crime is alleged. In those types of cases, you would want experienced civil litigators, for example like the good folks at Altman & Altman, LLP, to help you.

In this case, the Commonwealth’s theory involves a bit more intent than simple recklessness. After all, drinking and then driving is an intentional act.

“But what if the decision to drive is so influenced by your being drunk that it is not really intentional?”

Under the law…it is intentional enough. Voluntary intoxication is not a defense for getting behind the wheel. The same is true after taking drugs.

Because it is being alleged that the accident took place because of the Defendant’s intoxication, the resulting death is considered a foreseeable result of the drunk driving. It is considered, again, intentional enough. Therefore, it is a homicide.

According to the Commonwealth, the Defendant was also trying to leave the scene of the accident when police arrived. This, too, is an intentional act. It further suggests a possible likelihood to flee and so is probably going to be taken into account when it comes to a Massachusetts bail hearing.

To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/09/11/police_charge_mass_woman_in_fatal_crash/

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