I recently blogged about a new nationwide trend to criminalize “drowsy driving”. Caffeine-crazed prosecutors around the country are going after sleep-deprived drivers who doze off at the wheel on criminal charges including manslaughter and other serious felonies. (The prosecutorial equivalent of pouring cold water on sleepy drivers.) Could YOU end up on the receiving end of such prosecutorial zeal some day? Hey, wake up and smell the coffee — you too drive sleepy once in a while!
Yesterday, New York City prosecutors lost a nine-week multiple-manslaughter trial against a bus driver they charged with driving while drowsy. Essentially they argued that, by getting behind the wheel of the bus knowing he had not slept enough, and then causing an accident because of his sleep deprivation, he committed manslaughter and other serious crimes.
The jury disagreed. Yes, he caused one of the deadliest crashes in New York City’s history. Yes, he was probably negligent in the extreme for having driven a busload of innocent unsuspecting passengers on too little sleep. But no, he was not criminally liable.
But don’t worry about the guy getting off scot-free. He already spent more than a year in jail because he could not make bond, and he still faces liability in pending civil lawsuits for damages filed by the survivors and relatives of those killed in the crash. The injuries were horrendous, including one guy who lost both arms.
Want to know what it’s like to live with no arms? One of New York’s finest trial lawyers ever, Mo Levine, once famously summed it up to a jury like this: After telling the jury he had just taken his client out to lunch, he paused and said, “ladies and gentlemen, my client eats like a DOG“! Then he sat down. The jury gave his armless client the biggest New York personal injury verdict ever recorded until that day.
I feel terrible for the victims of this unspeakably horrendous accident. I hope they get zillions of dollars in their New York personal injury lawsuits. But as I explained in my last blog, in the humble opinion of this Central New York auto accident lawyer, criminally prosecuting sleepy drivers is a Pandora’s box not worth opening.
Email me at: email@example.com I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
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