In 2005, the Massachusetts State Legislature, through the passing of "Melanie's Law" enactment of harsher penalties for Drunk Driving and Related Crimes, established the new criminal offense of Manslaughter While Operating a Motor Vehicle.
Manslaughter While Operating a Motor Vehicle is a Massachusetts drunk driving crime that punishes those whose operation of a motor vehicle, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, results in the (unlawful) and unintentional killing of another. In other words, the death of the other was caused by the wanton or reckless conduct of the operator that created a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm to another would result.
Persons convicted of Manslaughter by OUI / DUI may face the following potential penalties:
- 5 year minimum-mandatory and up to 20 years in state prison.
- Fines of up to $25,000
- A loss of your driver's license for a minimum of 15 years and up to life.
These cases can range from simple and straight-forward facts to having very complex issues being involved. Sometimes alcohol is the only factor. Other times, speed may also be main or contributing factor. Most times, the police will deploy accident re-constructionists to attempt to determine the direction and speed of the vehicle(s). Sometimes road conditions (snow, rain) may be determined to have contributed significantly to the accident; or that there were other intervening causes, such as mechanical or brake failure of the operator's vehicle.
Additionally, many new vehicles that are manufactured contain their own "black box". Much like the black box contained in airplanes, cars' black boxes can store/record information so that, in the event of an accident, the data can be analyzed. How much information is recorded on these black boxes varies between vehicles, but generally only the last few seconds/minutes of information are stored because the recording is only triggered upon the event. For example, if air bags are deployed or if the vehicle is involved in a collision.
The data that can be stored on these black boxes may include speed at the time of impact; whether the breaks were deployed; whether the vehicle was accelerating; and whether there were other mechanical or electrical failures at the time.
Your case might also benefit from hiring another type of expert, such as a toxicologist. Particularly where the question is close whether or not you were operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a chemist or toxicologist may be able to sway a jury that you were not, in fact, impaired at the time when you were operating the vehicle.
Having represented persons charged with Vehicular Homicide prior to trial and post-conviction, hiring a defense accident re-constructionist is almost always a necessity. If nothing more, it would at the very least serve to ensure that the police re-constructionist accurately determine the cause of the accident.
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