Can a DUI driver or a person who commits the offense of reckless driving be charged with a felony if a death is caused by another vehicle trying to avoid the first driver’s vehicle or crash scene?

The answer to this question is YES, if the facts support a theory that the drunken or drugged driving — even reckless driving — caused others to take evasive action to seek to not collide with or to be hit by the dangerous driver.

McGrath v. State, 277 Ga. App. 825, 627 S.E.2d 866 (2006), was a Georgia case where the driver’s conduct while driving in an impaired condition, or hazardously (in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property) proximately caused one or more victims death. The felony charges can be based on reckless driving even though the victim was struck and killed by the vehicle of a third party after the errant driving episode is over (even if no collision occurred. The victim in the McGrath case, who had stopped to try to render assistance, was crossing the highway when the vehicle of the other driver struck her.

The broad “sweep” of such laws is consistent with national goals of making our highways safer. Where injury or damage is proximately caused by an act or a failure to act — whenever it appears from the evidence in the case that the act or omission played a substantial, direct role in bringing about or actually triggering the injury or damage. The prosecutor will seek a conviction by arguing that the death or deaths was “a reasonable probable consequence” of the egregious driving act. DUI drivers are the most common target of such felony prosecutions, but reckless driving can certainly support felony charges, when no alcohol or impairing dugs are found.

Copyright 2015. William C. Head. All Rights Reserved.