This actually happened a few hundred feet from where I live, though I don’t remember hearing about it at the time. An intoxicated man apparently struck and killed two pedestrians at a roundabout, then collided with a taxi.
It’s a really poorly designed intersection. There’s a smooth, three-lane, one-way road that runs for about a mile, then stops abruptly at a roundabout with quite a bit of pedestrian traffic, especially at night. So people fly up the road, then zip around the circle without looking out for people crossing. It’s especially bad late at night when people coming home from the strip of bars on the street where this happened are probably in a state where they’re less prone to be looking out for cars. (I mean, so I’ve heard.)
Of course, poorly designed or not, it doesn’t excuse the this guy, who was apparently pretty drunk. He was been charged with vehicular homicide. I’m not sold on the appropriateness of that charge for drivers in these cases (although this guy didn’t help matters by fleeing the scene—twice).
But what happened to the guy’s girlfriend seems way over the top.
Erin Brown’s boyfriend was charged with vehicular homicide and assault. She had been in the passenger seat. But in a rare use of the law, police also are charging Brown with the same crimes.
She faces as many as three decades in prison.
Police and prosecutors says Brown violated a part of the highway safety section of the Tennessee Code that makes it unlawful for the owner of a vehicle to direct, require or knowingly permit the operation of a vehicle in any manner contrary to the law.
Allowing someone to drive your car when you know they are drunk, prosecutors say, makes you criminally responsible for their actions.
The District Attorney’s Office commonly charges vehicle owners with driving under the influence for allowing a drunk person to drive their car.
But the vehicular homicide charge, a felony, against Brown is the first of its kind in Nashville.
Brown apparently was drunk too, and in her state of intoxication,she improperly gauged the level of her boyfriend’s intoxication before handing him the keys.
I’m okay with finding some civil liability for Brown, here. But it seems awfully excessive to take this woman’s life away from her for a split-second error in judgment that indirectly led to her boyfriend unintentionally striking and killing two people.
Brown apparently set herself up for the charge by telling police she gave her boyfriend the keys because he seemed “less drunk” than she was. So she basically admitted she knew he was intoxicated. (Again—never, ever talk to the police. Get an attorney.) But I wonder. What if she hadn’t made that statement? Could she have been charged if she should have known her boyfriend was drunk? How obviously drunk would he have needed to be? What if he was, say, just a hair above the legal limit? How much of a duty do you have to determine someone’s sobriety before you allow them to drive your car?
Seems to me that this is a pretty good example of “just because you can charge someone with a crime doesn’t mean you should.”