Man Faces Vehicular Manslaughter Charge For Apparent Road Rage
A man who held a personal vendetta against a Toyota Camry he believed had cut him off the week before initiated a multi-vehicle accident when he attempted to even the score. The driver of a van cut the Camry off intentionally, according to police, forcing the vehicle off the road. A 17-year-old was killed in the ensuing accident. His parents, who were in the Camry, survived with minimal injuries. Other vehicles also were affected by the accident. Witnesses say that the van attempted to cut the Camry off twice more before the fatal accident.
A private ambulance followed the van for three miles before the van pulled over. The ambulance driver says the van driver made spontaneous utterances concerning how annoyed he is with Florida drivers always cutting him off.
Analyzing the charges
The man is being charged with one count of vehicular manslaughter and three counts of aggravated battery. Vehicular manslaughter is a crime of culpable negligence. That means that someone caused an accident accidentally but was negligent in a manner in which they can be held criminally responsible for the accident. For example, drunk driving is a manslaughter offense. You don’t mean to hurt anyone, but you know that by drinking you are placing yourself and others in danger. This is known as culpable negligence.
Aggravated battery, on the other hand, is a crime of intent. You cannot accidentally batter someone. It must be intentional. So, the police have charged the man with accidentally murdering a teen but intentionally battering the teen and his parents with a motor vehicle.
Given that these two arguments cannot both be simultaneously true, the state has a problem. They can either charge the man with second-degree murder by virtue of automobile or drop the charges related to aggravated battery. However, since the man intended to run the vehicle off the road, one would assume that lays the foundation for both an aggravated battery prosecution and a murder prosecution.
Problematically, however, the two vehicles never made contact. The van driver attempted on several occasions to position his vehicle in such a manner that it forced the other vehicle to respond. In this case, the vehicle responded by swerving, hitting a guardrail, and then overturning. However, the man committed actions that were likely to result in death or injury. Does this trigger the felony murder rule?
The answer is no. In order to pursue a felony murder prosecution, the state must establish that a specific crime was committed and someone died in the commission of that crime. Trying to run someone off the road is not among the crimes that trigger felony murder. Lastly, had the van driver struct the vehicle intentionally or ran through a pedestrian, second-degree murder may be appropriate. Instead, the van driver caused the other vehicle to react which caused the death of their child. So in the chain of causation, the van driver’s conduct was one step removed from the death. Hence, it’s manslaughter and not murder.
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