DUI Deaths

DUI Deaths

In the early morning hours of May 15, 2011, a tragic car accident claimed the lives of three young passengers and severely injured another. The accident resulted from the 20-year-old driver’s intoxication after a night of drinking, which ended when the vehicle carrying the five occupants slammed into a tree.

Following the crash, the driver immediately fled, but he was arrested hours later, still with an alcohol level twice the legal limit. The driver pleaded guilty to three counts of manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an accident for the crash that killed three and injured another. The young driver received a sentence of 20 years in prison.

Sentence Review Panel

While anyone facing criminal charges should discuss their case with an experienced attorney, there are still options for those who have been convicted. In Maryland, an appeal of sentencing can take place without going to an appeals court. In this case, the panel heard arguments from both sides regarding possible reduction of sentencing and ruled to reduce the original sentence. This ability to hear arguments for reduction of sentencing allows those convicted in Maryland a different avenue to appeal sentencing decisions.

The review panel, consisting of three Maryland judges, significantly reduced the original 20-year sentence. The judges believed that the original sentence was too severe and extended beyond typical sentencing guidelines for such an incident.

The panel pointed to the fact that the other passengers willingly entered the vehicle. The judges also felt that the defendant should have been given more credit for the guilty plea at the original trial. The new ruling reduced the sentence from 20 to 15 years, with seven years suspended.

Driving Penalties / Modifies Texting Legislation

Driving Penalties

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that Maryland had 547 traffic-related fatalities in 2009, many of which were caused by reckless drivers. Additionally, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration, 24,379 accidents were the result of distracted driving and a significant portion are attributed to cell phone use.

Fatal Accidents: Reckless Drivers Now Face Jail Time

The Washington Post reported that, under the old law, reckless drivers who caused a fatality could receive punishment as insignificant as a traffic ticket or a fine.

Imagine someone who was speeding, admits to drinking the night before, and kills a pedestrian crossing the street, and receives a punishment that is the equivalent to a parking ticket. Many victim advocates believed justice was not being served, so they voiced their opinion loudly to Maryland’s policy makers.

In response to these lobbying efforts, CBS reports that Maryland has passed legislation allowing prosecutors to bring criminal charges against reckless drivers if their actions result in the death of another. While parents and loved ones of reckless driving victims know this cannot bring back their loved ones, they are nevertheless joyful that future offenders will receive punishments that better fit their crimes.

Texting While Driving Now a Primary Offense

Maryland originally enacted texting while driving legislation several years ago. Unfortunately, this law was difficult for police to enforce because it was a secondary offense and an officer needed a separate reason (a primary offense) to pull a motorist over and ticket the driver for texting while driving.

Driving Penalties

Maryland’s legislature decided to erase this loophole in light of the car accident statistics that show the dangers of distracted driving. New legislation now make it possible for police to pull over a driver solely for texting while driving. The Washington Post details that those caught texting — unless texting the 911 emergency system — can be fined $70 and receive a point towards the suspension of their driver’s license.

Impact

While these new laws should help increase the safety of Maryland’s roads, it is obvious that not all car accidents can be prevented. Some individuals will still make the mistake of texting behind the wheel or driving irresponsibly. But victims can hold these negligent drivers accountable.

Those who have been injured in a car accident should stand up for their rights and speak with an experienced auto accident attorney immediately to discuss their options and potential legal claims.

Snow Days and the Wussification of America

America

This is the first blog on the Fratusbrady law firm website. We will blog on issues directly relating to current legal events as well as issues with a broader impact on society. It seems like an appropriate time of the year to touch on the tort liability relating to snow and snow removal. The east coast experienced another snow “storm” that caused overly protective local and governmental officials to shutdown schools and governments not to mention created that immediate need to stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper. In Maryland, like many states, municipalities, generally, owe a duty to persons lawfully using public streets and sidewalks under its control to make such public ways reasonably safe for passage, but such duty is not an absolute one making municipality insurer of safe passage. Weisner v. Mayor and Council of Rockville 245 Md. 225, 225 A.2d 648 Md. 1967. A pedestrian, who seeks to recover from municipality for injuries sustained because of dangerous condition of sidewalk, must show that condition was more perilous than general condition of sidewalks throughout municipality and that particular situation had prevailed for such period of time that municipality should have known about it and failed to take steps to remedy it. Id. In some case, the courts may imposed a more stringent duty upon the owner of a commercial property to keep its property cleared of ice and snow than that imposed on a municipality.

It is easy to understand why governments and schools need to be cautious before, during and after snow storms but recently the threat of lawsuits have taken this to the extreme. Why is it that as soon as there is a threat of snow the schools and governments close the workers and students immediately drive to the local mall to shop or out to a restaurant to enjoy their snow/vacation day. What type of message is this sending to the students when a dusting of snow means they can’t attend school yet there is not enough snow to sled. Everyone has heard the stories from their parents and grandparents about walking to school in five feet of snow and uphill both ways. You may hear how they attended or watched the 1967 NFL championship game played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with the official game-time temperature of -15°F / -25°C, with a wind chill around -48°F / -44°C . Typically the tales are dismissed as being over exaggerated tales of hardship but the truth is that out parents and grandparents were not coddled in the manner we are in this day and age. Is it the “wussification” of America or the result of an overly litigious society? Either way, I can’t wait to hear the tales of the current generation when they tell their grandchildren about being forced to walk to school in nearly an inch of snow or how the NFL game between the Viking and Eagles in Philadelphia, PA was postponed by snow.

America

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said it best when asked about the game postponement, “I’ll give you an idea of the wussification of America…have you ever watched those commercials for the most ordinary product, and after you’re through hearing the disclaimers, thought: ‘Who in the world would take that product?’ … We’re so worried about liability.” National Journal by Jim Sullivan, Dec. 29, 2010 the governor added. “Forget this football game; how many times have you seen schools close? Washington, D.C., closes with two inches of snow… We’ve lost our boldness, we’ve lost our courage, we’ve lost our pioneer spirit, we’ve lost our sense of adventure,” Rendell continued. “I don’t think Americans are willing to take prudent risks anymore.” Id. It does make you wonder about the decisions our future leaders concerning the economy, laws or foreign relations. To think that it all stems from not walking to school in the snow.