Motor Vehicle Homicide
Of all the crimes that our website talks about, Motor Vehicle Homicide is among the ones that is most relevant to the average, everyday person. That is because it impacts so many otherwise law-abiding people: One of the main differences in defending clients charged with this crime is that they are not career criminals or repeat offenders. They are usually “normal”, everyday people who made a terrible, irreversible mistake. That mistake could have occurred in a split second; it could be something as innocent as looking into the visor mirror to speak to a back seat passenger. These mistakes can be tragic.
The crime of Motor Vehicle Homicide in Massachusetts can be charged in one of two different ways: As a felony or a misdemeanor offense. The facts surrounding the particular event producing the arrest will determine what type of charge will be brought forward. While each of these related crimes contain different legal elements, and while each carries different penalties following a conviction of each offense, both of the crimes are defined and governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24G.Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide
Obviously, this is the far more serious of the two offenses. The felony offense provides for very serious punishment for anyone who operates a motor vehicle on a public way either negligently or recklessly, and while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances causes the death of another person. A person can be sentenced to prison for up to 15 years if convicted of Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide. The legal elements of this crime are very specific. In order for the prosecution to secure a conviction on this charge, it must prove the following 5 legal elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant was operating a motor vehicle at the time of the offense.
- That he/she operated the motor vehicle on a “public way”, or where members of the general public have a right of access or are business “invitees.”
- That the defendant was operating under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances at the time of the offense.
- That the operation of the motor vehicle was reckless or negligent.
- That the defendant’s actions in operating the motor vehicle recklessly and under the influence of alcohol or drugs caused the death of another person.
The last element (the “causation element,”) can be proven if the prosecution can show that the defendant’s actions directly and substantially set in motion the chain of events that caused the victim’s death. Stated more briefly: But for the defendant’s actions, the victim’s death would not have occurred.
The following is centrally important when dealing with a charge of Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide: In order for the prosecution to secure a conviction on this charge, it must be shown that the defendant was BOTH intoxicated AND negligent or reckless in the operation of the motor vehicle at the time of the offense. Proof of intoxication does not, standing alone, create a legal presumption of negligence or recklessness. Unless both intoxication AND negligent/reckless operation are established beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury or judge, the offense must be charged as Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide, further below.
Punishment for Conviction Of Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide
A conviction of this crime is punishable by at least 2 ½ years in a County Jail/House Of Correction and up to 15 years in state prison, together with a fine of up to $5,000 or by imprisonment alone. Note: A County Jail and state prison are not the same: State prison is much worse. When convicted of this crime, a defendant is required to serve a minimum mandatory 1 year jail sentence – no options for less. A conviction of Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide will result in your driver’s license being revoked for 15 years following conviction of a first offense, and revoked for life following conviction of a second offense. As to which courts these cases are tried in (Superior Court or District Courts,) the District Courts have jurisdiction over both felony and misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide cases.Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide
The less serious crime of Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide is charged when a defendant causes the death of another person by operation of a motor vehicle, but does so EITHER because he or she was operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the offense, OR because he or she was operating recklessly or negligently – but not both.
While the misdemeanor section of the statute is almost identical to the felony section, there is a critical difference in that the prosecution needs to prove only 4 legal elements of the misdemeanor offense, as opposed to 5 with the felony offense, above. These four elements are as follows:
- That the defendant operated a motor vehicle at the time of the offense;
- Upon a public way or where members of the general public have a right of access;
- That the defendant was operating under the influence of alcohol, drugs or intoxicating substances; OR: That the defendant was operating recklessly or negligently so as to endanger the lives and safety of the public
- That the defendant’s actions caused another person’s death. Sometimes, more than one person can be involved with someone’s’ death. If it can be proven to a jury or judge that some other person or some other event was the direct and substantial cause of the victim’s death, and it can be shown that the defendant’s actions were only a minor link in the chain of events leading to the victim’s death, then the defendant cannot be found guilty of Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide.
Punishment For Conviction of Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide
Motor Vehicle Homicide is punishable by at least 30 days and up to 2 1/2 years in jail or a house of correction or by a fine of at least $300 and up to $3,000, or both the jail time and the fine. As with Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide, a conviction of motor vehicle homicide will result in your license being revoked for 15 years following a conviction of a first offense and revoked for life following conviction of a second offense.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with either Misdemeanor Motor Vehicle Homicide or Felony Motor Vehicle Homicide in Massachusetts, click on the “Free Arrest Tip Sheet” display button on this page, or just click here. You will receive a FREE document listing the most important action steps that you need to take if you have either already been arrested, or if you feel that you may be arrested soon. This FREE, valuable document will help you to begin to take charge of your situation.
Make The Wisest Choice You Can In Choosing Your Motor Vehicle Homicide Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested for or charged with Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Homicide, it is critically important that you retain an experienced and successful Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Homicide defense attorney such as Attorney William D. Kickham. If you're facing this kind of legal crisis, things are bad enough already. If you don’t take control of this situation, trust us, it will take control of you. Call us at Ph.: (781) 320-0062, or Ph.: (617) 285-3600, and we’ll provide you with a free initial consultation for 30 minutes. Or click here for a free consultation. We will personally review the police reports involved, review the facts as you recount them, and we'll give you a direct opinion of what your best legal options are. We'll tell you upfront what are the weak or strong points in the prosecution’s case against you, and We’ll tell you how we can help you. We will do all this as part of a free initial consultation, and you’ll be under no obligation from there. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by calling us. The sooner we can stand in front of you as your attorneys, the better off you are going to be.
Westwood and Boston, Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer William D. Kickham has appeared as a legal analyst on a variety of respected media, including Court TV (now In Session on HLN,) Fox News TV-25/Boston, The Boston Herald, WBZ-AM Radio 1030, WCVB-TV5/Boston, Nightside With Dan Rea, Greater Boston With Emily Rooney, Money Matters Radio/Boston, and The Metro Newspaper/Boston. Attorney William D. Kickham is turned to by respected reporters and media organizations in Massachusetts as an authoritative expert in the field of criminal defense law, and the case results he produces for his clients attest to this. Call us today at Ph.: (781) 320-0062, or Ph.: (617) 285-3600, to arrange for a free initial consultation of your case. If the matter is not an emergency, you can email us here for a free initial consult and we will respond to you very promptly.