In 2014, Nicole Davis was charged with and pleaded guilty to reckless driving causing death and operating a motor vehicle without security – which caused the death of University of Michigan student Sharita Williams as she was crossing Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor.
Davis had pleaded guilty in a plea deal in exchange for the charge of manslaughter with a motor vehicle to be dismissed.
Davis was driving about 10-15 miles above the speed limit, in broad daylight, not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and not using her phone. She missed the flashing lights indicating someone was on the crosswalk and struck and killed Sharita Williams.
Death Caused by a Traffic Accident: Murder or Accident?
Under Michigan law for many years, you could be charged with a form of murder for a traffic accident. This was called “negligent homicide” in the penal code. This law was repealed in 2009 and two new laws were put into place: reckless driving causing death and moving violation causing death.
Reckless Driving Causing Death
This law states that “a person who operates a vehicle in violation of subsection (2) and by the operation of that vehicle causes the death of another person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not less than $2,500.00 or more than $10,000.00 or both.”
The penalties for this are the same as for charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and it means that prosecutors have to prove that someone operated a vehicle intentionally recklessly, with a willful disregard for the safety of others – which can be hard to do.
Moving Violation Causing Death
This charge is a lesser misdemeanor charge, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $2,000 or both. The prosecutor and judge in Nicole Davis’ case decided, by removing the felony charge, that the circumstances of her traffic accident did not justify her being charged with murder – and perhaps could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
The potential problem with this statue is that, in legal speak “failure to stop within an assured clear distance” means anyone involved in a traffic accident. Should any person involved in a traffic accident be charged with a misdemeanor and punished by a year in jail if it causes a death?
Many, if not most traffic accidents don’t have clear perpetrators and victims because most of the time they aren’t crimes in the typical sense. Yes, a person driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be proved to be willfully disregarding the safety of others if he or she drives, but what about a man who is driving while sleepy or a mother of small children distracted by noises they are making?
Are you Facing Involuntary Vehicular Manslaughter Charges?
If you find yourself being charged with involuntary vehicular manslaughter for a traffic accident, it is important to seek legal aid right away. While most courts don’t want to charge someone with a crime if they are truly innocent, most licensed drivers don’t know traffic laws very well and may not understand how the court system works.
You need to protect yourself and make sure there is someone working on your side. Contact the David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC today.
Let’s start fighting to protect your freedom