A tragic accident in Sandy Springs has claimed the life 72-year-old Ailsie Straley. Her husband, James Straley has been charged in the accident.
Readers should not be confused that Mr. Straley is charged with impaired or drunk driving. He is not. These charges are the Misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide, which is when someone involuntarily causes the death of another through a violation of the traffic laws.
In affect, any negligent driver that kills another driver or pedestrian through a violation of the basic traffic laws and rules of the road will be charged with Misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide.
What is genuinely a horrible accident becomes a crime. The driver was not DUI; he was not impaired; he was not driving recklessly. He simply was at fault in an accident the resulted in the death of his wife.
From a legal defense point of view, committing the traffic offense alone is insufficient to convict someone of the homicide. The State has to also prove that the driver proximately causes the death of another through their negligence.
As a result, causation is always a defense in any Vehicular Homicide case. Contributory negligence (this is where we start to sound like civil lawyers) is always a defense as well. So, when another driver is partially at fault in his or her own death that can be a defense.
Whether the driver cause the death is the legal question in this case.
The answer is this case is not clear-cut. Mrs. Straley died of a heart attack at the hospital. I would certainly argue that many intervening causes and pre-existing conditions could cause a heart attack. It's doubtful that the car accident is the proximate cause of this tragic death. This is a clear case of police over-charging Mr. Straley, who has suffered enough in this accident.