https://www.silvermanthompson.com/lawyer-attorney-1300820.htmlAmong the most difficult cases that Maryland Criminal Attorneys find themselves involved in are https://www.silvermanthompson.com/lawyer-attorney-1300820.html. These cases are always tragic but they become even more so when the person who is killed is a passenger and close friend or family member of the driver.
Most of these cases involve young people who are out together and are using alcohol and/or drugs. These cases also typical involve excessive speed or other dangerous driving. The driver is almost always a decent person without a record who never intended to hurt much less kill anyone. I concluded a particulary tragic case like this in Baltimore County Circuit Court this week. It was, in all honesty, among the most difficult and emotionally taxing cases of my career. Here are the facts:
My client is a 22 year old man who lives here in Baltimore County. He comes from a very nice family, has a good job and has no prior criminal or traffic record. He went out drinking one night last year. With him was a lifelong friend from his neighborhood. In fact, they had known eachother since my client was 7 and lived just 2 doors apart. My client told me that he loved him like a brother.
They went to a bar and had a few beers. They also picked up another friend. At around 1pm they decided to head back to the bar that was very close to their neighborhood to catch last call. To this point my client had consumed roughly 4 or 5 beers. On the way home, my client’s neighborhood friend was in the front seat and the other friend was in the back. The long and the short of it was that he drove too fast and didn’t pay close enough attention to what he was doing. A few witnesses claimed he was driving in excess of 100 miles per hour but the “black box” information from the car indicated a speed of approximately 68 mph for the 5 seconds preceeding the crash. The speed limit on the road was 30 mph.
Ultimately, my client lost control of the car and slid off of the road. As fate would have it, the car impacted a utility pole just behind the front passenger door. The impact tore the vehicle into two pieces. The front seat passenger, who was wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle along with the seat he was in.and was killed instantly. The backseat passenger was seriously injured. He came very close to having his leg amputed and has endured 7 surguries over the past year.
My client was basically unhurt as seems to almost always be the case for some reason in these accidents. When the police arrived he admitted to being the driver and to having 4 or 5 beers. He consented to a blood test . The result was .08 which while not an extremely high reading, is over (just) the legal limit. He was ultimately charged with Automobile Manslaughter, Negligent Homicide, Causing a Life Threatening Injury while Under the Influence and related offenses.
I met with him and his parents almost a year ago. I found the client to be an extemely nice and respectful young man who was deeply saddened and remorseful over the accident. He and his parents explained how they had become very close friends with the young man who was killed and his family ever since they moved into the neighborhood 15 years before. The families had vacationed together, celebrated holidays and special events together and helped to raise eachother’s kids in the close knit community in which they both lived.
By everyone’s account, the young man who was killed was exactly the kind of person you would want your son to be friends with. He was described universally as kind hearted guy who was a friend to everyone who would give you the shirt off of your back if you needed it.
His death was a tragic loss not only to his family but, everyone agreed, to his community.
After reviewing the evidence in the case I explained to my client that he really had no defense. There were multiple witnesses that put him behind the wheel, including the surviving passenger. The car was registered to him. He admitted to driving at the time of the accident and to having consumed alcohol before driving. He voluntarily gave blood, although they could have and would have forced him to do so had he not, and the result was over the legal limit.
I advised him that he was facing up to 14 years in prison when you add up all of the charges that would not merge for sentencing and that a good result would be to limit his incarceration to a sentence of 18 months in the County Detention Center. A sentence like this, I advised would avoid the daunting prospect of going to the Division of Corrections (real prison) but could also allow him to keep his job if we could get him a work release recommendation from the judge.
My client did everything that I told him to do too include attending long term in-patient alcohol treatment followed by an extended period in a half-way house. The sentencing hearing was probably the saddest hearing I have ever participated in. Dozens of family members crowded both sides of the courtroom. Family members spoke emotionally about the devastation they all felt. The deceased’s mother spoke the most eloquently telling the judge that she had lost the love of her life but also telling the judge what a good person my client was.
In the end the judge sentenced my client as we had hoped. She sentenced him to 13 years suspending all but 18 months in the County Jail with work release. The judge did the right thing in my view. He and his family were both very accepting of the sentence. As my client was being led off to jail the heartbroken mother told him to never forget that her son always loved him and was no doubt watching over him now while at the same time telling him that she was not happy with the sentence. I think that the internal conflict expressed in these sentiments is emblematic of these emotional cases. No one seems to really knows how or where to direct their sadness and/or anger because in these cases, unlike most homicide cases, there really just isn’t a villian.