Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DA looking into traffic fatality prosecutions

The Harris County District Attorney's Office is in the middle of reviewing over 100 traffic fatality cases to determine if proper protocols were followed in bringing criminal charges against drivers deemed at fault.

The vehicular crimes section was started up under disgraced former District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal and was seen as former prosecutor Warren Diepraam's baby. Mr. Diepraam is now working for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office

According to a statement released by the DA's office, prosecutors in the vehicular crimes section "deviated" from office policy in filing criminal charges in the cases that are under review.
"The Vehicular Crime Section had deviated from the long-standing practice of this office concerning what was necessary to raise a civil negligent traffic accident case to that of criminal negligence." -- Harris County DA's Office statement
In response to claims from law enforcement personnel that this case review would make Houston's roads more dangerous for motorists, the DA's office said, in a written statement, that streets would not be made less safe if the office followed the law when deciding when to bring criminal charges against a motorist.

The sad reality of living in a major metropolitan area is that with more cars on the roads, accidents are more likely to happen -- including fatality accidents. In Houston we like to drive fast, and that leads to accidents. But that's what they are, for the most part -- accidents. There is a difference between civil negligence and criminal negligence when it comes to accidents.

It's one thing to cause an accident because you're driving too fast, it's quite another to cause an accident because you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol or because you're involved in a high-speed race on the freeway.


Kim said...

If you cause a wreck due to alcohol, drugs, or a high speed chase, why is that any different from causing a wreck from driving too fast? There are laws in place for all of the above. Why is one any worse than the other? They all have the same outcome. Please explain to me why someone who is not under the influence of anything, but crosses over the yellow line and kills someone is not held criminally liable. They were doing something wrong or else they wouldn't have been across the yellow line.

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

Thank you for your comment. There is a difference between being civilly liable for an accident and being criminally liable for an accident. Most accidents are caused by a driver's negligence (driving too fast, not keeping a proper lookout, following too closely, etc.) -- that's a far cry from criminal negligence.

To be criminally negligent, one's behavior must be so far outside the realm of reasonable behavior that he had to know he could cause injury or death to another.

Now if someone is driving 100+ mph on the freeway with moderate to heavy traffic and is bumping people out of the way -- that crosses the line. But to subject a driver to felony charges just because he was speeding and caused an accident is absurd.

Kim said...

Thank you for your reply. Do people think that when you drink and drive that you intend on killing people? When you speed do you intend on killing people? I am going to run this stop sign and kill someone? No. What’s absurd is not having the same laws for the same crime. Killing is killing, no matter how you do it. When you drink and drive you know you are taking a risk of hurting someone, when you speed, you know you are taking a chance on hurting someone. When you are drinking you are not thinking right, (which is still no excuse) however, when you are sober and speeding, you know exactly what you are doing. Driving is a huge responsibility. Laws need to change to make people more responsible for there actions.