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Motor Vehicle Homicide
All motor vehicle accidents resulting in a death are thoroughly investigated in Massachusetts. Many of these investigations result in a criminal prosecution. The most common crime charged under these circumstances is motor vehicle homicide. Motor vehicle homicide in Massachusetts can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Both are defined under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24G.Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide
The felony portion states that anyone who operates a motor vehicle on a public way either negligently or recklessly so as to endanger the lives or safety of the public and in doing so causes the death of another person while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances shall be guilty. You can be sentenced up to 15 years in prison if convicted under this section. There is a minimum mandatory 1 year jail sentence. Proving someone guilty of this crime requires that 5 elements be established beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant operated a motor vehicle.
- That he did so on a public way or where members of the public have a right of access or are invitees.
- That he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or other intoxicating substances.
- That the operation was reckless or negligent.
- That the defendant’s actions caused the death of another person. This can be proved if the defendant’s actions directly and substantially set in motion the entire chain of events that caused the death. Alternatively stated, that but for the defendant’s action death would not have occurred.
The misdemeanor section of the statute is very similar to the felony portion. Here however the prosecutor needs to prove only 4 elements:
- Public way;
- One of either:
- Being under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating substances;
- Operating recklessly;
- Operating negligently so as to endanger the lives and safety of the public
- That the defendant’s actions caused the death of another. If another person or event was the direct and substantial cause of the victim’s death and the defendant’s actions were a minor link in the chain of events leading to death then the defendant is not guilty of having caused the death and of motor vehicle homicide.
If convicted of the misdemeanor section of the statute you can be sentenced for up to 2 ½ years in jail. The district courts have jurisdiction over both felony and misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide cases. Since 1984 Massachusetts has held defendants liable for prenatal injuries resulting in the death of the fetus before or after birth sufficient to sustain a charge of motor vehicle homicide.Motor Vehicle Homicide Defenses in Massachusetts
Perhaps the most common defense to a charge of motor vehicle homicide in Massachusetts is that the event was the result of an accident. Often times there are no witnesses to these cases, so to establish a prosecution the district attorney uses an accident reconstructionist to determine what happened. We have defended several cases using our own accident reconstructionist to successfully show that the district attorney’s theory of the case is patently incorrect. Our experts apply the most sophisticated and exacting formulas and tools to reconstruct the events. Sometimes the reconstruction is shown to juries through computerized reenactments. These demonstrations enable juries to see exactly what happened so that they can understand that the entire case, unfortunate as it is, is no more than an accident. Other times, we defend these cases by showing that the victim was in fact at fault, not our client. Our experts use state of the art equipment and cutting edge technology to ensure a quality defense.