In a case involving a tragic motor vehicle accident on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) that resulted in the death of a passenger, Barry Kamins and Michael Jaccarino successfully convinced the Judge in Kings County Supreme Court to dismiss the top charge.
In New York, if a motorist who is driving while intoxicated is involved in an accident that results in a fatality, the person will likely find themselves facing, at worst, vehicular manslaughter charges, which carry significant penalties. However, lately, prosecutors throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, have been charging these motorists with homicide, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. However, these cases are often overcharged. Motorists who find themselves charged with homicide after a motor vehicle accident will need an experience criminal defense attorney to convince the Court that the evidence is not sufficient to meet the higher standard necessary to sustain the elevated charge associated with homicide. Specifically, legally sufficient evidence establishing Murder in the Second Degree must establish that “while acting under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, the defendant recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to another person.“ Penal Law Section 125.25(2). In other words, the People must present legally sufficient evidence that the defendant exhibited “an utter disregard for the value of human life – a willingness to act not because one intends harm, but because one simply doesn’t care whether grievous harm results or not.” People v. Feingold, 7 N.Y. 3d 288 (2006). However, we have argued that “cases involving a depraved indifference to human life are highly fact specific and dependent upon the individual defendant’s particular mental state – a factor that may be difficult to establish. Indeed, intoxicated driving cases in general, although clearly examples of dangerous behavior, are not thought of as “quintessential” cases of depraved indifference.” People v. Heidgen, 22 N.Y. 3d 259 (2013).
Mr. Kamins and Mr. Jaccarino argued that in this case, the allegations of intoxication coupled with the defendant’s manner of reckless driving does not come close to approaching the threshold for what is required for depraved indifference in similar intoxicated driving cases. Proof of intoxication and driving in a reckless manner and over the speed limit, without more, is insufficient to establish a depraved indifference to human life.
The Court agreed.
This was a huge victory for our client, as the potential sentence that he was facing was reduced tremendously.
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