Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Homicide Lawyer
At the Mahoney Criminal Defense Group, we have been successfully defending those accused of Motor Vehicle Homicide in the courts of Massachusetts for nearly 20 years. In fact, we have never lost a motor vehicle homicide case. We are ready to defend you or a loved one in the courts of Boston, Cambridge, Woburn, and Massachusetts. Call at 617-492-0055 or use our online contact form to arrange a free in office consultation with a Massachusetts motor vehicle homicide lawyer.
Being Accused of a Crime You Did Not Intend to Commit
Whether an accident that results in a fatality was caused by driver error, misjudgment, or the result of an unfortunate convergence of circumstances beyond the control of any motorist, the driver is usually overcome with grief at the sudden, unexpected loss of life. And just as this personal crisis unfolds amid the noises, flashing lights and confusion of responding fire engines and ambulances, the municipal or State Police arrive on the scene to begin their investigation, which almost always includes questioning the distraught, shaken driver and a police officer rudimentarily schooled in accident reconstruction attempting to determine the cause of the accident – and assign blame.
If you have been charged with motor vehicle homicide, municipal and/or State Police investigators have, obviously, found you at fault for the accident. It can be a bewildering, disquieting and daunting development. Unlike most criminal defendants, you are not accused of deliberately committing a crime – you are charged with negligently operating your vehicle.
Choosing a Motor Vehicle Homicide Lawyer
Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer to represent you is, as it is in most criminal cases, a critical decision. To successfully defend an individual charged with motor vehicle homicide, a lawyer must master several forensic disciplines. Attorney Mahoney possesses a thorough understanding of accident reconstruction, including proper interpretation of roadway tire marks, vehicle damage, and roadway debris, together with vehicle design compromises, variables contributing to overestimates of pre-collision velocity, roadway design flaws, factors affecting driver reaction time, including age, “expectancy,” conspicuity, binocular and periphery vision limitations, and visual processing impediments, and basic physics.
Mahoney has obtained acquittals for clients charged with motor vehicle homicide by effectively cross-examining accident reconstructionists, police officers who administered the field sobriety tests, crime laboratory chemists, medical personnel, and eyewitnesses. He has devoted entire sections of his best selling book, Relentless Criminal Cross-Examination, to instructing lawyers in proven cross-examination strategies for accident reconstructionists, chemists, officers administering field sobriety tests, and eyewitnesses. To assist him in preparing your case for trial, Mahoney retains a respected accident reconstructionist to analyze the methodology, deductions, and opinions of the municipal or State reconstructionist, a forensic photographer to photo-document the scene of the accident and the damage to the vehicles, a toxicologist to examine State Crime Laboratory testing procedures, results, and conclusions, and a private investigator to interview eyewitnesses.
Motor Vehicle Homicide Overview
Motor vehicle homicide can be prosecuted either as a felony (where the motorist was allegedly both intoxicated and negligent) or as a misdemeanor (where the motorist was allegedly intoxicated or negligent). Unlike most crimes that require the Commonwealth to prove that the accused had an intent to commit a criminal act, misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, where the motorist is being accused of negligence rather than intoxication, as well as driving to endanger, require the Commonwealth prove only negligent operation of the motor vehicle. Although it is clear that the legislature did not intend to punish drivers who had been simply involved in an accident, District Attorney’s offices have been aggressively prosecuting motorists for accidents where they have little or no proof that the accused was driving recklessly or even inattentively. Callahan v. Lach, 338 Mass. 233, 235 (1958) (“The mere happening of an accident between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, where the circumstances immediately preceding it are left to conjecture, is not sufficient to prove negligence on the part of the operator of the vehicle”). Nevertheless, to some prosecutors, that there was an accident resulting in a fatality demonstrates that there was criminal negligence.
Misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide is punishable by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not less than thirty days nor more than two and one-half years, or by a fine of not less than three hundred nor more than three thousand dollars, or both. Felony motor vehicle homicide is, obviously, more serious than misdemeanor homicide. It is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two and one-half years or more than fifteen years and a fine of not more than five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not less than one year nor more than two and one-half years and a fine of not more than five thousand dollars. To convict a defendant of felony motor vehicle homicide, the Commonwealth has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:
- Operated a motor vehicle;
- Did so on a public way;
- While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotics;
- In a negligent manner so that the lives and the safety of the public might be endangered or in a manner that is considered reckless; and,
- Caused the death of another person. G.L. c. 90, §24G(a).
If a pedestrian or a motorist is killed in an accident, the State Police or the municipal police assign an accident reconstruction “expert” to investigate the accident and determine if charges are warranted. Some of these accident reconstructionists are fair, knowledgeable and fairly well educated. Others, are absolutely unqualified to render an “expert” opinion in such a serious matter. Many, though not all, municipal and State accident reconstructions possess undergraduate degree or even a master’s degree. None possess a Ph.D. in engineering or physics. Determining the cause of an accident from the post-accident clues, conflicting witness accounts, and statements from the accused requires a high degree of intelligence, an ability to correctly distinguish roadway marks, such as skid marks and yaw marks from one another, to accurately interpret their meaning, and to apply the appropriate formula to estimate the speed and direction of the colliding vehicles. Many individuals, because of the reconstructionist’s pre-investigation bias, shoddy investigation, or improper application of reconstruction principles and formulas to the evidence, have been unfairly accused of operating their vehicles negligently. An attorney who has successfully defended those accused of motor vehicle homicide can help you.
Commonwealth vs. S.L., Framingham District Court
Motor Vehicle Homicide – Not Guilty
The Defendant was driving down a lonely, poorly lit road in Wayland. As she approached a crosswalk, she checked her speed, looked up, and saw an individual dressed in a yellow sweatshirt off to the right. Assured that the boy wasn’t entering the roadway, she returned her attention to the road; just then, another boy, dressed in dark clothing, ran out before her car. She could not avoid the boy and he died later that night from the injuries he sustained. The State Trooper who investigated the crash claimed that the Defendant should have seen the victim from 120 feet, and had she applied her brakes at all, the victim would have been able to clear the path of her car. The jury deliberated less than an hour.
Commonwealth vs. J.R., Newburyport Superior Court,
Motor Vehicle Homicide — Not Guilty
Operating Under the Influence — Dismissed on first day of trial
According to the Commonwealth, the Defendant was driving 89 mph down Rt. 95 in Topsfield when he rear-ended another vehicle, sending that vehicle out-of-control and rolling down the embankment. The occupants of the vehicle were ejected. The driver died within a few hours. Responding police, EMTs and firemen detected an odor of alcohol on the Defendant’s breath. Two witnesses described the Defendant as intoxicated. Attorney Mahoney eviscerated the Commonwealth’s accident reconstructionist by exposing his inconsistencies, his perjury and his motives. After deliberating for three hours, the jury found the client not guilty.
Kevin J. Mahoney is a Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Homicide Lawyer. Call 617-492-0055 to schedule a free in-office consultation with an attorney experienced in defending Motor Vehicle Manslaughter cases.