It is easy for most of us to condemn a drunk driver. One should not drink alcohol and drive.
That’s pretty clear.
Sometimes, though, the lines are a bit blurrier when it comes to questions of safe driving. Take the recent case of a 65-year-old man from New York who just plowed into six pedestrians in East Orleans on Sunday.
Police say he may have fallen asleep while driving.
Orleans Police Lt. Kevin Higgins says that the man was headed toward Nauset Beach on Beach Road and was rounding the corner at the intersection with Nauset Heights Road when it appears he fell asleep. Higgins said it was as if he didn’t straighten the wheel to proceed down toward Nauset Beach, but instead continued the turn, hitting six of seven pedestrians who had their back to traffic and were walking on the right side of the road.
“It was a just a terrible accident,” said Higgins, adding that he could just have easily hit a tree. “There happened to be seven people walking there.”
According to law enforcement, the man admitted falling asleep and there was no evidence of impairment by alcohol or drugs.
The Orleans Fire Department said that two of the women suffered apparent head injuries and a third suffered a possible fractured leg.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Drowsy Driving
Several months ago, we discussed some cases like this. In fact, this past year, Ian and I successfully represented a young man who had admitted to police he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
In that case, a man was killed and our client was charged with vehicular homicide.
The driver in this case is fortunate that nobody was killed. Given that there were serious injuries, of course, he can expect one to six lawsuits over the matter regardless of what happens with the criminal prosecution.
As with all areas of criminal law, there are technical issues which must be dealt with in a case like this. Boiling it down, though, the issue is whether or not the driver had any reason to believe that he might fall asleep…assuming that is what happened.
“Sam, the guy admitted that it was what happened.”
Sometimes folks who just were in a serious accident are not the most reliable when pressed for an answer right after said accident. Further, we do not know the circumstances of the statement. In other words, as far as far as the prosecution is concerned, what matters is evidence.
It is possible that the statement could be challenged and potentially suppressed. If that happens, then it will not be in evidence.
“The language you used makes it sound like a civil lawsuit for personal injury.”
It certainly does. This is an area where the issues are virtually the same. The important difference is, of course, the burden of proof is different. Here, it is beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil action, it is beyond the preponderance of the evidence.
How the Commonwealth treats these cases also tends to differ a bit. At around the same time our client had his accident, a local District Attorney had a similar accident.
Our client was brought to trial; criminal charges never issued against the District Attorney.
As with many driving offenses, defendants are often folks who have little to no criminal record. Sometimes the case originates from unexpected tragic circumstances.
But make no mistakes. Such cases should be handled by the defendant as extremely serious. There are many ways the results of this prosecution can change one’s life for the worse.
After all, the Commonwealth treats them quite seriously.
And, speaking of “war stories”, I now turn you over to Mr. Ian Keefe to tell you about a more recent one.