Individuals who are arrested in New York State on drunk driving charges face harsh penalties. In cases where a driver causes or is involved in a motor vehicle accident in which others are injured or killed, he or she is likely to be charged with additional and more serious criminal charges including vehicular homicide and manslaughter. A key factor in this type of case, however, centers on the fact that the accused individual must actually be driving at the time the accident occurs.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors throughout New York and the country are closely following the trial of James Ryan who is currently standing trail for the death of a police officer who prosecutors charge died due to Ryan’s recklessness.
In October of 2012, Ryan was driving home from a bar where he’d been drinking when he was involved in a traffic accident. According to court documents, Ryan failed to stop after the initial accident and continued driving down the highway. Ryan’s vehicle then collided with a second vehicle at which time the deceased police officer responded.
At this time, Ryan exited his vehicle and was leaning against a guardrail when another vehicle came upon the crash site and crashed into Ryan’s vehicle and also the police officer who was responding to the crash. Sadly, the police officer’s injuries proved to be fatal.
In the wake of the officer’s tragic death, prosecutors employed what’s known as the causation/foreseeability principle to charge Ryan—who registered a .16 BAC—with DWI, manslaughter and aggravated vehicular homicide arguing that Ryan was responsible for the officer’s death. Meanwhile, the driver who actually hit and ultimately caused the police officer’s death was provided immunity by the prosecution.
Prosecutors in the case argue that Ryan’s drinking and reckless actions caused the police officer’s death. However, defense attorneys argued that the prosecution’s case is a stretch and that the driver who actually hit the police officer should be charged and not Ryan. While a lower court originally agreed with the defense, a state appellate court sided with the prosecution.
We’ll continue to provide updates as more details from this trial emerge and an eventual verdict is reached.
Source: CBS-New York, “Driver Charged In Nassau County Cop’s Death Faces Case That Tests Limits Of Criminal Blame,” AP, Jan. 19, 2016