Driver Found Guilty of Evading Responsibility, Despite Not Realizing He Caused Victim’s Death

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conviction for evading responsibility, unconvinced that the State did not present sufficient evidence of the crime.

This case arose from an incident that occurred shortly before midnight on June 3, 2008. A tractor trailer struck a motorcycle driven by the victim, who was killed instantly. However, the driver of the truck did not stop to render any assistance, but instead drove off. Subsequently, the defendant, a tractor-trailer truck driver, was arrested and charged with evading responsibility in violation of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) § 14-224(a).

At trial, the State presented testimony from two witnesses. The first saw the accident and testified that she observed two working headlights on the tractor-trailer truck just prior to the collision. A second witness observed a tractor-trailer truck parked a short distance from the accident. This witness “saw the driver get out of the cab of the truck, walk around to its front, and then get back into the cab and drive away.” This witness further noted that the truck’s left headlight was not lit, and both witnesses described unique features and characteristics that were present on the defendant’s tractor-trailer truck.

The State also submitted a sworn police statement given by the defendant. He stated that he was driving at the intersection at the time of the incident when “he heard a ‘bang.’ He stated that he assumed something had become ‘hung up between the truck and the trailer’ and therefore stopped only briefly before leaving the scene of the accident.” The defendant further claimed that the headlight that was out was in that condition earlier that night. The jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to forty-four months of incarceration. The defendant appealed, arguing that the State provided insufficient evidence that he was the driver of the truck that killed the motorcyclist, and that he knew he was involved in an accident.

To convict an individual under CGS § 14-224(a), the State must prove “(1) the defendant was operating the motor vehicle, (2) the defendant was knowingly involved in an accident… (3) that accident caused the death or serious physical injury of any other person… [and] (4) that the defendant failed to stop at once to render such assistance as may have been needed…” Particularly important, however, is the interaction between the second and third elements: a defendant doesn’t have to know that the accident actually caused an injury.

In this case, the Appellate Court believed that based on the evidence presented, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the defendant was the driver in question. Furthermore, that the defendant did not know he caused an injury was not dispositive. “[W]hether a defendant had knowledge that an accident caused injury… is irrelevant to the crime of evading responsibility.” Because the first three elements were satisfied and the defendant did not stop to render assistance to the victim, the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated CGS § 14-224(a). After addressing and rejecting additional matters on appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed judgment.

When faced with a charge of evading responsibility, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.