Can You Face Criminal Charges for a Medical Episode While Driving?

Posted on Feb 29, 2016 in Criminal Defense

Recently, the AP reported on a case in which a 66-year-old man was charged with vehicular manslaughter because he reportedly caused a motor vehicle accident in which two children were killed. The accident occurred when he had a seizure behind the wheel. The prosecutor considered bringing felony reckless driving charges against the driver, but that case could not be proven.

Instead, the prosecutor charged the motorist with a lesser crime. The case raised an important question: When, if ever, can a driver who experiences a medical episode face criminal charges because he or she caused a death while driving?

Any defendant who is charged with causing a death in a car accident can face very serious penalties. If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter or a related crime, you need to get legal help. A New Orleans criminal defense lawyer can represent you and help you explore defenses available to argue and options for minimizing or avoiding criminal penalties.

Vehicular Manslaughter and Negligence Behind the Wheel

In Louisiana, there are various laws that allow a defendant to be charged for causing an injury or death while behind the wheel.  Louisiana Revised Statute Section 14:31.1 defines the crime of vehicular negligent injuring to include inflicting injury on someone when driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of certain drugs and/or alcohol.  This charge would not apply to a defendant who had caused a collision when he had a medical episode, unless the episode was brought on by illegal drug use.

There is another law that could apply to result in a defendant being charged when he has a medical episode leading to a fatal crash. Louisiana Revised Statute 14:32 defines the offense of negligent homicide to include the killing of another human being as a result of criminal negligence. Violating statutes and ordinances is considered presumptive evidence of negligence.  A driver who causes a death by driving drunk or by driving while in violation of other Louisiana laws could be charged with this criminal offense.

A driver who simply has a seizure while driving may not necessarily be considered criminally negligent. However, there are circumstances in which the driver’s actions may lead to charges.  It is not the specific act of having the seizure that would lead to the charges, as this is out of the control of the defendant. Instead, if a defendant is charged, he or she usually will be accused of criminal negligence as a result of making the decision to drive when there was a risk of losing control of the car.

In the case reported on by AP, for example, the driver had experienced prior accidents and even had his license suspended in the past because of seizure activity. He also had admitted that he felt a seizure coming on during the day when he caused the crash, yet he opted to drive anyway.

If you cause an accident and someone gets hurt or killed, you need to begin building an argument against criminal charges right away. Call a criminal defense lawyer in New Orleans today to get started.

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