While civil punishments and lesser criminal charges for drivers who text are becoming increasingly common, homicide convictions for texting drivers who cause fatal accidents have been, until recently, untested. Now, however, a Massachusetts driver has been convicted of motor vehicle homicide (otherwise known as vehicular homicide) when his texting while driving caused a fatal crash. Our experienced distracted driving attorneys believe that this will be only the first of many such convictions.
Aaeon Dveau, an 18-year-old Massachusetts driver, was the first to be charged and convicted for such an offense. Deveau pled not guilty, but his argument was based on the question of whether he was, in fact, texting at the time of the crash – not whether a charge of vehicular manslaughter was valid for a texting driver.
The crash occurred when Deveau’s vehicle began swerving and crossed the center line of the road. He then crashed headlong into a pickup truck, killing the driver – a 55-year-old father of three.
In addition to the charge of motor vehicle homicide, Deveau faced charges of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, using a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle, reading or sending an electronic message, a marked lanes violation, and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.
Deveau argued that his vehicle crossed the center line because he was distracted by the large volume of homework he was facing, not due to texting while driving. He argued that he had not texted since he left the parking lot at his work, a local grocery store. According to his testimony, he then placed the phone on the passenger seat, where it remained until after the crash.
Phone records, however, showed that this was a case of distracted driving due to texting. Deveau sent a text message at 2:34, received a return message at 2:35, and crashed at 2:36. In total, Deveau sent 193 texts on the day of the crash, February 20, 2011.
Deveau’s behavior after the crash also influenced the jury. When police took a videotaped statement from him shortly after the crash, he asked them, on tape, “If anything happens to them, if one passes away, what would happen to me?” The jury apparently believed, as the prosecution argued, that this showed consciousness that his texting caused the accident.
Deveau now faces sentencing. He is eligible for up to four years in prison. The top distracted driving attorneys of Passen & Powell, however, believe that this is insufficient punishment. With study after study showing that drivers, particularly teens and young adults, are ignoring laws against texting while driving, our criminal justice system must step up to convince these young people to stop – as concern for their own safety and that of others has failed to do.
In the meantime, civil attorneys such as those at Passen & Powell will continue to fill the void of justice for those injured by distracted drivers, including those who text on the road. If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident, and you believe that distracted driving was to blame, call for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago distracted driving lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.