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.

HAVERHILL MOTOR VEHICLE HOMICIDE TRIAL MAKES MA HISTORY

As I write this, history is being made at the Haverhill District Court.

It is the first trial for vehicular homicide taking place where the negligent acts of the defendant are the use of a cellular phone, to wit: texting. As you may recall, we discussed the new law regarding texting while driving when it was passed not so long ago..

Aaron Deveau, a teenager hereinafter, the “Defendant”, is now 18 years of age. On February 20, 2011, when he was 17, he is Alleged to have received 193 text messages…some of which are said to have come within moments of his crossing into oncoming traffic and smashing head-on into another car, killing the driver and seriously injuring a passenger. Prosecutors add that 4 of these texts came within two minutes of the impact.

55-year-old Donald Bowley of Danville, New Hampshire was on the other side of that impact. 18 days later, Mr. Bowley died of severe brain trauma apparently caused by the accident. In the car with Mr. Bowley was Luz Roman. She is said to have serious injuries, including the breaking of all her ribs, collapsed lungs and fractured pelvis and leg.

Roman testified that all of her ribs were broken, her lungs collapsed, and her pelvis and leg were fractured.

The charges the Defendant faces Include negligent motor vehicle homicide and causing injury in a crash while texting and driving. If convicted, he is said to be facing a sentence of four years in jail.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Vehicular Homicide Prosecutions

Regular readers of the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog may notice this case is being brought in state district court, not Superior Court. As we have discussed, most prosecutions for serious crimes such as homicide are usually brought in Superior Court. It is Superior Court which has the jurisdiction to send people to state prison for many years…even life without parole.

However, this homicide trial is taking place in District Court where the maximum sentence the court can give on any one crime is two and one half years in the House Of Correction.

You may be wondering if the Commonwealth is simply “giving a break “to the young Defendant.

The answer is “no”…and if you have read my various blogs about the motivations which control the criminal justice system, you already figured that.

You may also note that the Defendant is said to be facing a potential sentence of four years.

This is because the Defendant is facing more than one charge.

In most cases, the court has the option to hand out either concurrent or consecutive sentences when a defendant is convicted. In this case, should the jury find the Defendant guilty, the court would have to give consecutive sentences in order for the defendant to be sentenced to more than more than 2 ½ years in jail. There can be no state prison sentence.

When sentences are consecutive, one does not begin servicing additional sentences until the previous is served. In other words, should the Defendant be sentenced to 2 years for the homicide and 2 years for one of the other charges, then the Defendant would not begin to serve the second 2 years until completing the first 2 years. This, of course, equals 4 years.

Concurrent, on the other hand, means that the sentences will be served at the same time.

Not all driving charges which result in death are limited to 2 ½ years in jail. Should the allegation be that a defendant was driving drunk when killing someone, then, like any felony charge, the defendant will likely be prosecuted in Superior Court. The potential sentences, which include state prison, will number in far more years. Naturally, if the homicide is considered actually an intentional murder, then it is like any other murder case.

The translation? Drunk, sober, angry or happy…be very careful when you drive. After all, it is considered a dangerous weapon.

On that note, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

For the articles upon which this blog was based, please go to
http://articles.boston.com/2012-05-29/metro/31882012_1_text-messages-texting-while-driving-prosecution/ and http://articles.boston.com/2012-05-31/metro/31900689_1_text-messages-driver-in-fatal-crash-interview

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