Define That Term #281
The New York Legal Blog Round Up

Generally Speaking, Death By Speeding Not a Crime

Gavel2 Last week, the New York Court of Appeals handed down its decision in People v. Cabrera, 2008 NY Slip Op 03994.  I wrote about this case in my Daily Record column last September and was quoted in March in this article from Sullivan County's newspaper, the Times Herald-Record. 

In both instances I stated that it was my opinion that the Third Department incorrectly upheld the jury's verdict, which convicted Mr. Cabrera of three counts of criminally negligent homicide, assault in the third degree, reckless driving and a number of traffic infractions.  The Third Department reasoned that the verdict was supported by the traffic violations convictions, which included failure to keep right, driving left of a yellow line and violations of his junior license restrictions (namely that he failed to ensure no more than two passengers were under the age of 21 and that all passengers were wearing seat belts).

It was my opinion that:

In this case, a 17-year-old boy who possessed a junior driver’s license was sentenced to one and one-third to four years in state prison for doing what inexperienced teenage drivers have done since the advent of motor vehicles — exercising poor judgment while driving too fast...Civil liability does not necessarily amount to criminal liability...The vast majority of errors in judgment simply do not rise to the level of culpable conduct required for a criminal conviction.

The New York Court of Appeals (at least the majority of the court, in this case) and I apparently see eye to eye on this issue.  The Court held that:

For a 17-year-old to badly misgauge his ability to handle road conditions is not the kind of seriously condemnatory behavior that the Legislature envisioned when it defined "criminal negligence," even though the consequences here were fatal. This crash resulted from noncriminal failure to perceive risk; it was not the result of criminal risk creation.

My faith in humanity is restored--at least temporarily.



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