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.

20-YEAR OLD CHARGED WITH MANSLAUGHTER AFTER OUI ACCIDENT COMING FROM UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND

New England students are coming back to school. First order of business…let’s party!

Well, here is a sad reminder of where that can lead.

Anthony Ciccone, 20, of Pepperell, MA is dead. He was killed in a traffic accident. He was the passenger of another 20-year-old gentleman who was allegedly driving 50 miles over the speed limit. The car smashed into a utility pole Sunday morning.

20-year-old Rhode Island Christopher M. Bennett (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was that driver. He survived.

Police were contacted from security personnel at University of New England, reporting two men who “were reportedly intoxicated and trying to forcibly enter a residence hall dorm room,” Biddeford police said in a statement. The school’s security personnel attempted to stop the two men from driving but were unsuccessful.

The two were apparently not students at UNE, but were reportedly visiting friends.

Biddeford Police officers spotted a Ford Explorer which matched the description that the school’s security had provided. It was reportedly travelling westbound on Pool Street at 80 miles per hour. The speed limit was 30. An officer tried to stop the car, “but lost sight of the vehicle almost immediately,” the statement said.

The Explorer thereafter crashed into a utility pole in the area of Pool Street and the West Brook Skating Rink.

The Defendant was treated for non-life threatening injuries at the Maine Medical Center in Portland then taken to the York County Jail. He has been charged with manslaughter and operating under the influence, according to police.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Drunk Driving Homicides

As we have discussed in past blogs, the police have initiated new strategies and efforts to catch drunk drivers. As schools now come back in season, the problem shifts a bit. Now, areas near schools need special attention given “end of the summer” parties and the folks they attract.

The Defendant, clearly, is lucky to be alive. However, he has a future of legal problems in front of him.

Naturally, there is likely to be a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. That action, however, will likely have to wait in line while law enforcement decides what to do with the Defendant.

The charges of manslaughter and drunk driving are serious enough by themselves. When combined, however, they have particular potency. Because the underlying issue with the driving is being drunk, the vehicular homicide is no longer the misdemeanor it can often be. It is a felony matter and one that can bring many years imprisonment in state prison.

Of course, like any drunk driving matter, there will be a loss of license involved…only for much longer than if the fatality had not happened. And, of course, this matter will be on the young man’s criminal record.

While a matter such as this is clearly an accident, the law looks harshly upon it. After all, the drinking was voluntary. Most likely, the driving thereafter was voluntary. Therefore, it is considered by most to be an intentional crime to some extent.

However, it is important to understand that the fact that the police believe the Defendant was drunk does not necessarily make it so. Further, the fact of the horrible accident ALSO does not, in itself, make the Defendant guilty as charged. There are various elements to such crimes that must still be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a jury to convict.

For example, we do not know whether the Defendant’s blood alcohol level was tested. It is pretty clear that the police were neither able to administer a breathalyzer or field sobriety tests at the scene of the accident. Sometimes, accidents simply happen.

And IF the Defendant had had a drink or two? Well, that, in itself also does not mean that he was “under the influence” enough to have run afoul of the drunk driving laws.

The bottom line? Two things.

One. It is not worth risking it. Do not drink and drive.

Two. If you are accused of such a crime, do not attempt to shrug it off or treat it as any less a problem than it is. If not handled correctly, this case is going to make the Defendant’s life very different from how he had figured it.

In fact, that may be the case even if the case IS handled correctly…it is that serious.

For the original story upon which this blog was based, please go to http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2012/09/02/drunk-driver-kills-year-old-pepperell-man-maine-according-police/szOsmeiqeReRTkgijLPywN/story.html

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