October 17, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Any drunk driving charge is a very serious matter in New York. But, a DWI involving an accident
can be punished especially harshly.
Even in accidents involving only property damage or injuries, the alleged drunk driver can face substantial time behind bars, along with a variety of other sanctions. When someone is killed, there is a very real possibility of second-degree murder charges.
Second-degree murder, like many crimes, has both an act element and a state-of-mind element. That means to secure a conviction, prosecutors must prove not only that the defendant in fact caused the victim's death, but also that he or she was in the requisite state-of-mind at the time.
For a second-degree murder charge arising from drunk driving
, the required state of mind is a "depraved indifference to human life." In other words, prosecutors must show that the defendant consciously showed "an utter disregard for the value of human life." This does not mean that the defendant necessarily intended to hurt anyone, but at the time of the offense was conscious of the fact that a death could have been the likely result of their willing behavior.
The very nature of a DWI-related crime calls into question whether some defendants can form the requisite state-of-mind for a second-degree murder charge. Can someone become so intoxicated that he or she is unable to appreciate the nature of his or her own behavior as showing a depraved indifference to human life? That question was recently brought before the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court.
Were defendants aware of the nature of their behavior?
The recent case was heard before the Court of Appeals on October 8, and involved second-degree murder convictions for three separate defendants who had all been found to have been extremely intoxicated at the time of their accidents. Prosecutors claimed that the defendants were sufficiently aware that they were putting others at risk and simply did not care, while defense attorneys argued that their clients' intoxication rendered them incapable of comprehending the threat they posed to roadway safety.
If the defense attorney's arguments sway the Court of Appeals, their clients' convictions will be overturned. The Court is expected to issue a decision sometime in November.
Outcome may impact those accused of causing an accident while intoxicated
The outcome of the case currently before the Court of Appeals is uncertain, and even if it is favorable to the defendants, it should not be interpreted as giving carte blanche to criminal defendants who were extremely intoxicated at the time of an offense. It is, however, an interesting question of legal interpretation, and an important case for those charged in a DWI involving an accident.
If you have been accused of causing an accident while intoxicated, or if you are facing any type of drunk driving charge, it is important to protect your rights by staging a strong legal defense. Learn more from a New York DWI lawyer.
Article provided by Katz Law Offices
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