By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Technology is our friend in defending a distracted driving death case.
Why is technology our friend? Because more often than not, it provides us with a 360-degree view of what was going on in everyone’s mind and car at the time of the accident. Law enforcement and prosecution, on the other hand, tend to see one nugget of technological information. When they do, they jump to conclusions and blind themselves to anything else.
An Example of Using Technology to Tell the Full Story:
Let’s say Driver 1 and Driver 2 collide causing the death of Driver 2 — and Driver 1 is on trial for Vehicular Manslaughter.
Let’s assume police are able to lawfully get into Driver 1’s phone (a big assumption). Driver 1 was shown to have sent 3 texts in the 5 minutes before the crash with one text received 15 seconds before the accident.
Police then jump up and down hollering this is conclusive Driver 1 was distracted and caused the death of Driver 2.
But we’re capable knowing a much fuller story than just this.
We can tell based on the car’s infotainment system virtually anything being communicated to Driver 1 from the car. Was there a hands-free system being used at the time through bluetooth or through a USB cable? Did the car have lane-assist and if so, was the driver in his/her lane? Did the driver brake and/or moderate their speed?
Many of these things are knowable from both cars in the accident.
Investigation and Privilege in Defending Vehicular Death Charges
A common fear is, “what if we dig into the technology and the truth actually hurts us?”
It’s a good question – but remember – your lawyer’s investigation is privileged. If the investigation unearths bad or harmful information, then the information doesn’t boomerang and hurt the defense. The public policy behind this is simple — Defense lawyers and defense investigators would never really dig into the truth if they were always afraid of what they might uncover.
The cornerstone to any good distracted driving homicide case whether it be criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter is being fluid with the technology surrounding the entire case. The more information, typically the better.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He was designated as a Super Lawyer in 2019 by Thomson Reuters.