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Fatal car accident could lead to criminal charges
Most people know that the civil court system can help injured people and their families seek compensation from those who are responsible for the harm. Sometimes, however, the fault in a car accident is so egregious that it also can trigger criminal charges.
This was the case last week in the Charlotte area. Prosecutors are considering bringing a charge of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle against a 23-year-old woman driving a Toyota Corolla who struck and killed a 59-year-old man who was serving as a school traffic officer near Mooresville.
The traffic officer had been helping parents gain access to N.C. 115 after classes let out at a middle school. A trooper who investigated the accident said the driver who hit the traffic officer was within the speed limit. There was also apparently no obvious impairment or distraction that kept the woman from seeing the traffic officer.
If drugs or alcohol are involved in a fatal accident, that can be a reason for prosecutors to pursue a felony charge. Unsafe use of smartphones or other electronic devices can also be a factor in prosecutors’ decisions about whether to bring criminal charges and, if so, how serious they should be.
In this case, the criminal justice process is still in its early stages. But after going over the evidence with the trooper who investigated the scene, the prosecuting attorney handling the case indicated that a misdemeanor charge is likely.
It should also be noted that civil and criminal cases have different standards of proof. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the standard is not so high. It is called “preponderance of the evidence,” which means it is more likely that not that the person in question was at fault.
Source: “Driver to face charges after Moorseville school traffic guard struck, killed,” WCNC.com / Charlotte Observer, April Bethea, 11-17-12
Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Charlotte car accident page.