In a recent case a Maryland appellate court considered a case in which a defendant was convicted of criminally negligent manslaughter, reckless driving and more. The defendant was a commercial tractor-trailer driver who got lost on the freeway. He called another driver with the same company for directions with his hands-free headset. They talked for twenty minutes to try to get the defendant back on track.
At one point, the defendant pulled over to the shoulder and then tried to get back on. He looked ahead and saw the road was clear for 1/4 of a mile. However, he was looking across the road at the median while pulling out and a vehicle drive by Michael Neimus collided with his truck. He hung up the phone.
Later Neimus’ friend testified that he met him at 10 pm on October before he died. They talked and drank at a bar until 2 am. They planned to go to one of their houses to continue and were each driving in their respective cars on the freeway when the friend saw the defendant’s truck. He testified that the truck swung out as if it was going to make a wide turn, but the truck didn’t get in the right lane. Instead it blocked the highway. The friend and Neimus swerved to avoid the truck. Neimus hit the back of the truck before driving off the road. The friend pulled over and saw that Neimus’ truck had fire beneath it. Neimus died.
The friend waited for the paramedics. The police found 1 gram of marijuana on Neimus and Neimus’ blood alcohol level was later found to be .14. A trooper investigating took the friend’s statement as well as the defendant’s. A trooper responded to the scene asked the defendant why he pulled into the crossover when hit by the victim’s car or pulling back into the shoulder. The defendant became nervous. Upon further questioning, the defendant revised his statement and said that he tried to make a U-turn.
pulled onto the shoulder. He then pulled onto the roadway and began to make a U-turn. Prior to pulling out onto the road, appellant looked both ways and did not see any oncoming traffic. As he was turning, he did not see a car approach, but he felt an impact when the vehicle collided with the back of his truck. In response to a question on the form asking if the accident could have been avoided, appellant answered in the affirmative, stating that he “shouldn’t have made the U-turn.”
The trooper searched the defendant’s car and did not find a hands-free device. He also learned later that the defendant had kept talking on the phone even after the collision. The defendant was charged with negligent manslaughter among other things. At his trial, the trooper described the scene of the collision, which included marks on the road showing the defendants’ path and black boxes from the trucks that showed their speed before the crash and other information.
At trial, the court found that though had a high BAC, the defendant was at fault for the accident and was guilty of criminal negligent manslaughter. The court also found the defendant guilty of all other charges and merged the lesser convictions with the criminal negligent manslaughter conviction. He was sentenced to one year imprisonment and appealed.
The defendant argued that the criminal negligence statute was unconstitutionally vague and that it didn’t show where is standard fell between existing concepts of simple and gross negligence. The appellate court acknowledged that Maryland courts had previously used criminal and gross negligence interchangeably. However, it found that CL § 2-210 defined criminal negligence as a standard distinct from gross negligence by having different elements.
The statute provides someone acts in a criminally negligent manner when that person should be aware but doesn’t perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk of homicide. The appellate court also looked at whether the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for criminally negligent manslaughter. It explained the lower court had made extensive factual findings and affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
If you are arrested or charged with a crime, you should consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney. We will develop the best strategy we can to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
Criminal Email Harassment in Maryland, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2014
Bill of Particulars in Maryland Criminal Defense, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2014