Two Virginia men, one a mere 23 and the other 25, set out on a resort-hopping excursion as two friends might, in Pennsylvania's Donegal Township. And, as young men sometimes do, as any of us might do or have done, the young man driving had had a bit too much to drink and was driving fast. This risky combination may have made it hard for him to regain control once it was lost after he alleges an animal in the road caused him to swerve suddenly.
It turns out police are not immune. Although the almost inhumane treatment you may have been given while you were incarcerated made you feel like you were dirt on the shoe of the police officers, it is not unrealistic to assume that many of them have been guilty of at least the crime you are charged with. While there will likely never be statistics to prove it, a good number of police officers drink alcohol when off duty and some of them, feeling immune to the law, may even choose to drive.
Sometimes there is no disputing a drunk driving charge. Even if you did not allow a breath test, one may have been required. Even if you were successful in the refusal, the factors around your charges may be irrefutable and in that case, you may feel compelled to admit your guilt and accept your sentence. However, even if you feel true guilt and would like to proceed with punishment, it is important to understand how far-reaching the consequences can be and how important it still is to have an advocate on your side.
In Virginia, if you cause the death of someone as an unintended result of something you did, you could be found guilty of manslaughter. If you were operating a motor vehicle and the vehicle caused the death, the charge is vehicular manslaughter. If you happened to be under the influence of narcotics or alcohol at the time of the incident, you still could be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
A charge of vehicular manslaughter can have a devastating effect on your life and your future. When they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, nobody expects to end up hurting someone or causing their death. Nobody would anticipate that they'd be involved in a fatal drunk driving accident. This type of thing is understandably an excruciatingly painful event for the victim's family. It is also disastrous for the person who allegedly caused that death. Mistakes happen, poor judgment calls are made, but that doesn't mean you don't have rights.
Though many of today's readers care little about criminal cases in other states, a very unique one out of New York this month may just give you pause. That's because the case deals with a legal theory that very well could be applied here in Virginia. If so, anyone in a similar predicament to the man in this particular case could find themselves facing steep criminal charges for which they may not feel they are responsible.
The term affluenza has never meant anything to anyone until it was first used in a 2013 case in which a then 16-year-old boy was accused of driving while intoxicated and subsequently vehicular manslaughter. As some of our Leesburg readers may remember hearing from national reports, the term described the young man's actions. The defense successfully argued that because of his privileged upbringing, he did not know right from wrong and should therefore not be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
In many bars, it's common practice for servers and bartenders to cut off patrons when they appear to have had too much to drink. Oftentimes done out of safety for the patron as well as other patrons, one of the main motives behind doing this is to prevent the patron from driving while intoxicated and potentially causing an accident.
In pairing with scientific research, some states have made historic changes to their criminal codes and have decriminalized and regulated marijuana within their jurisdictions. Now with groups like the Virginia National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Smoke the Vote pushing for legalization of the drug in our state, some are starting to wonder if Virginia could follow suit in coming years.
Close followers of our blog know that we like to warn our Leesburg readers about all of the potential consequences that come with drunk-driving charges in our state. Just last week, in the first post of our two-part series, we talked about the legal consequences of vehicular homicide, particularly what could happen in the criminal justice system for those convicted of the crime. But as we explained at the end of that post, criminal litigation is not the only legal consequence that can come with a vehicular homicide case.