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fatal crash

When Can a DUI Be Charged as Murder?

Drunken driving crashes can often be fatal, elevating a simple DUI to a full-blown murder charge. Case in point: A drunken driver in Colorado accused of killing a 17-year-old boy in an accident Monday is now facing a first-degree murder charge for his alleged actions, reports The Denver Post. Ever Olivos-Gutierrez, 40, lacks a drivers license and has incurred "numerous" DUIs prior to Monday's fatal crash. So when can a DUI be charged as murder? Extreme Facts Call for Severe Charges In a DUI crash that involves a death, prosecutors may have the option of charging a suspect with first-degree felony murder. In most states, if a suspect caused the death of a person while committing a dangerous felony, that person can be charged with a crime called "felony murder." In states like Colorado, these dangerous felonies include arson, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, sexual assault, or fleeing from police. Even if a fatal DUI is not eligible for a felony murder charge, it could potentially qualify as conduct that is extremely indifferent to human life. Drivers deemed to have acted so recklessly and with indifference to the risk to human life can also be charged with murder. These murder charges are also known as "depraved heart" murders. In the Colorado case, Olivos-Gutierrez is facing a murder charge for his DUI crash under a similar legal theory. Prosecutorial Discretion Most states give prosecutors the option to charge DUI offenders who cause fatalities with something less than murder. For example, involuntary manslaughter charges can apply to any person who caused another's death while performing a reckless or dangerous act that was a known risk to human life. It is not difficult for prosecutors to prove that driving while intoxicated is such a lethal risk, so involuntary manslaughter can be much easier to prove than murder for drunken drivers. Many states even have vehicular manslaughter charges which relate directly to deaths caused by reckless action (including intoxication) behind the wheel. Prosecutors in DUI fatality cases have the option to push for murder charges or a manslaughter or DUI charge. The prosecution can offer a plea bargain or even drop charges depending on the defendant's criminal history, willingness to cooperate, or lack of evidence. On the other hand, prosecutors also have the option to pursue murder charges for defendants with extensive criminal records, lack of remorse, or extensive evidence of wrongdoing. In any case, DUI murder charges are serious, and a criminal defense attorney can explain how and when they would apply. Related Resources: Do You Get a Public Defender for a DUI Case? (FindLaw's Blotter) Is Teen's 'Affluenza' DWI Sentence Too Lenient? (FindLaw's Blotter) 3 Ways a Misdemeanor DUI Can Become a Felony (FindLaw's Blotter) Breathalyzer Test Results: Are They Reliable? (Katz Lawyers)
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SXSW Crash Kills 2; Alleged Drunken Driver Arrested

An alleged drunken driving crash at SXSW claimed two lives and injured about two dozen people after a car barreled into a crowd Thursday morning. Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo told CNN that an unnamed male suspect is in custody facing two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault by vehicle for plowing into the crowd at the South by Southwest festival. What will prosecutors have to prove in order to convict, and what legal options may be available for victims of the crash? Driver Faces Serious Criminal Charges The driver responsible for killing two and putting at least 23 in the hospital was allegedly intoxicated and fleeing police when he collided with the SXSW crowd. According to CNN, the two persons who were killed in the crash were riding their light motorcycles (read: scooters) when the allegedly drunken driver hit them. Under Texas law, causing the death of a person while committing a felony is first degree murder. Since the unnamed driver is also alleged to have caused the death of the two SXSW attendees, he could potentially face the death penalty. In addition to the threat of capital punishment, the man accused of injuring at least 23 people is facing 23 corresponding aggravated assault charges. Aggravated assault is applied when there are serious bodily injuries, and CNN reports that some of the injured are in critical condition. Even without the two capital murder charges, the allegedly drunken driver could be facing anywhere from 46 to 460 years in prison. Civil Lawsuits Possible The criminal charges facing the driver aren't the only way his victims will find justice -- he can also face lawsuits in civil court. The families and loved ones of the two persons killed in the SXSW crash can certainly file wrongful death charges against the man alleged to have run over the two. The 23 survivors (and any others injured by the crash) can potentially sue the drunken driver for battery, and can hope to collect damages for any medical bills or associated costs stemming from their injuries. These civil suits will likely be put on hold until the suspect's criminal charges have been resolved. If he is convicted for the assaults and murders, then the victims should easily obtain a civil judgment against him. Given the extent of the injuries and damages, however, it is unclear whether the suspected killer will have the money to pay for these judgments. Related Resources: 2 dead after car crashes into SXSW crowd (The Austin American-Statesman) In Car v. Bike Crashes, Why Are Charges So Rare? (FindLaw's Blotter) Mars Heiress Charged in Fatal Crash (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad Gets 90 Years for DUI Crash; 5 Kids Killed (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Top 10 States for Fatal Truck Crashes

The latest NHTSA report on truck accidents reveals the Top 10 states where large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. The data also shows that in some states, large trucks made up a significantly higher proportion of vehicles involved in fatal crashes than the national average. Of the 45,637 vehicles involved in fatal crashes on U.S. roadways in 2012 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 3,802 -- or 8.3 percent -- were large trucks, according to NHTSA. So where did most of the fatal crashes involving trucks take place? Top 10 States by Number of Trucks Involved in Fatal Crashes Looking at NHTSA's raw numbers, the Top 10 states where large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2012 were: Texas, where 543 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes (that's 14.3 percent of the nationwide total); California, where 244 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes (6.4 percent of the nationwide total); Florida, where 194 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes (5.1 percent of the nationwide total); Pennsylvania, 175 (4.6 percent); Georgia, 149 (3.9 percent); Ohio, 146 (3.8 percent); North Carolina, 132 (3.5 percent); Oklahoma, 124 (3.3 percent); and Illinois and Indiana, both of which saw 115 large trucks involved in fatal crashes (3.0 percent of the nationwide total). Top 10 States by Percentage of Trucks Involved in Fatal Crashes Along with showing where the most truck accidents occurred, NHTSA's report also revealed what percentage of vehicles involved in fatal crashes in each state were large trucks. The Top 10 states where trucks comprised the largest proportion of vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 2012 were: North Dakota, where 20.2 percent of vehicles involved in fatal crashes were large trucks; Wyoming, 16.8 percent; Nebraska, 14.7 percent; Iowa, 13.2 percent; Oklahoma, 13.1 percent; Texas, 11.8 percent; Arkansas, 11.5 percent; Kansas, 11.0 percent; Louisiana, 10.7 percent; and West Virginia, 10.4 percent. Liability for Fatal Truck Accidents Because there are many causes of fatal truck accidents, questions are often raised about issues such as: the truck driver's actions, whether the truck driver's employer or the truck's owner can be held liable, and how the actions of other drivers may have contributed to the crash. For truck crash victims, receiving compensation after an accident can be a complicated and time-consuming process. That's why, if you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a truck accident, it's best to consult with an experienced truck accident attorney to learn more about your legal options. Related Resources: State Traffic Safety Information For Year 2012 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Truck Accident Injuries Up 18%: NHTSA Report (FindLaw's Injured) NHTSA Examines Role of Antilock Brake Systems in Reducing Truck Accidents (FindLaw's KnowledgeBase) Proving Fault in a Truck Accident: A Legal Checklist (FindLaw)
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Truck Accident Injuries Up 18%: NHTSA Report

Truck accident injuries are more common than you might think, with 104,000 people injured in truck crashes in 2012, according to the latest report by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration. That's an 18 percent increase in the number of injuries compared to 2011, when 88,000 people were hurt in truck crashes, according to NHTSA. Truck accident fatalities also increased by 4 percent, from 3,781 in 2011 to 3,921 in 2012, the latest year for which data were available. So who fares worse in truck accidents: truck drivers or occupants of other vehicles? Truck Accident Injury, Fatality Rates When cars and trucks collide, the chances for a serious injury or fatality increase significantly. And while this often can mean bad news for the truck's driver, it more likely means injury or death for car drivers and passengers. Of the 104,000 truck-crash injuries in 2012: 76,000, or 73 percent of those hurt, were occupants of other vehicles; 25,000, or 24 percent, were occupants of large trucks; and 3,000, or 3 percent, were non-occupants of vehicles -- meaning bystanders, pedestrians, and cyclists. NHTSA also found that of the 3,971 fatal truck crashes in 2012: 2,843, or 73 percent of those killed, were occupants of other vehicles; 697, or 18 percent, were occupants of large trucks; and 381, or 10 percent, were non-occupants of vehicles. These figures show that when it comes to truck crashes, drivers and passengers of other vehicles are nearly three times more likely to be injured than truck drivers and truck occupants. Those in other vehicles are also four times more likely to be killed in a truck crash, as compared to occupants of large trucks. Other Notable Findings In addition, the NHTSA report also found that: In fatal two-vehicle collisions, trucks were rear-ended more than three times as often as a non-truck vehicle. Most states have made it illegal to follow any vehicle too closely -- and it seems that when rear-ending a truck, the consequences are often deadly. While the number of truck-occupant injuries increased 8.7 percent between 2011 and 2012, the number of injuries to occupants of other vehicles and nonoccupants (bystanders, pedestrians, and cyclists) together jumped nearly 20 percent. This may seem inconsequential to some, but non-truck drivers can avoid most of the common causes of truck accidents by changing their on-the-road habits. For those involved in a truck accident, statistically you're not alone. As there are many ways to sue for truck accident injuries, your best bet is to call an experienced truck accident attorney today to discuss your legal options. Related Resources: Truck Accidents (FindLaw) Five Things to Research Before Meeting a Truck Accident Attorney (FindLaw) Dump Truck Hits, Kills Mom Putting Kid in Van (FindLaw's Injured) NHTSA: Distracted Driving Deaths at 'Epidemic' Level (FindLaw's Injured)
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