In Towns County, Georgia this weekend, a man riding a motorcycle was involved in a chase with the Georgia State Patrol, which ultimately ended when the man collided with a Ford F150 that was backing out of a private driveway. Unfortunately, the motorcycle driver did not survive the collision. Once the police made contact with the driver of the F150, he was arrested for driving under the influence.
I will be following this case closely, as I am very curious to see if the driver of the F150 will face charges not only for DUI, but also for vehicular homicide.
O.C.G.A. 40-6-393, the Vehicular Homicide statute, states that a person commits the felony offense of vehicular homicide when he or she, without “malice aforethought” – premeditation – causes the death of another person while driving under the influence (DUI). This offense is punishable with a minimum of 3 years in prison, with a maximum of 15 years.
In order to support a conviction for vehicular homicide, the State must prove that the defendant was (a) driving in a proscribed manner that (b) caused the victim's death. The driver of the F150 was allegedly driving under the influence. If the State can prove this factor beyond a reasonable doubt, then (a) is clearly satisfied. However, the remaining question, which I believe to be potentially more difficult, is whether the F150 driver's actions were the legal, or proximate, cause of the motorcyclist's death.
Georgia law states that essentially, as long as the defendant's negligence played a "substantial part” in bringing about the injury of another, a crime has been committed, even if there are other factors that also contribute to the injury. Ultimately, proximate cause is an issue for a jury to determine, and is based upon a combination of logic, common sense, justice, policy, and legal precedent.
Should the F150 driver be indicted for vehicular manslaughter, a jury could determine, based on the evidence, that the F150 driver's illegal act of DUI was the cause of the accident which caused the motorcyclist's death, notwithstanding the other factors surrounding the accident.
On the other hand, a jury could decide that the F150 driver's illegal action of driving under the influence was not the proximate cause of the motorcyclist's death. It could find, rather, that the high-speed police chase and unsafe driving on the part of the motorcyclist were the cause of the accident. A jury may still convict him of DUI, however.
In sum, it appears that the F150 driver may have a long and difficult legal battle ahead of him. He will need to hire a top-rated Towns County DUI Lawyer.