Could you get vehicular manslaughter in Maryland if you caused a fatal accident because of texting while driving?

June 7, 2012

Texting while driving and Vehicular Manslaughter

Texting and driving is fairly common on our Maryland roads. This begs the question of, could you be convicted of vehicular manslaughter if you killed someone because you were texting while driving.

Recently in Massachusetts, a case of first impression was heard against Aaron Devau, 18, who was found guilty of vehicular homicide, texting while driving, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Devau was sentenced to serve one year in jail, and his license will be suspended for 15 years, according to the CNN article.

Could the same thing happen to you in Maryland? Well, that depends. To charge someone with vehicular manslaughter, the person had to have driven, operated or controlled a vehicle in a grossly negligent manner. Multiple factors must be considered to meet the criteria for vehicular manslaughter by gross negligence, as it means the driver had a wanton or reckless disregard for human life in the operation of an automobile. The judge will consider factors such as:

  • Drinking;
  • Failure to keep a proper lookout and maintain control of the vehicle;
  • Excessive speed;
  • Fleeing from the scene;
  • The nature and force of impact and;
  • Unusual or erratic driving prior to impact

Maryland’s definition of gross negligence isn’t what’s known as a “bright line” law, meaning it’s subjective rather than objective. Can texting while driving be considered as a factor for gross negligence in vehicular manslaughter? Yes. But other factors, like those stated above, have to exist and also affect the person’s driving.

In the Massachusetts case, Aaron Devau also stated he was tired, which is as dangerous as drunk driving. He continued and said he was distracted and texting. All of these factors contributed to the outcome of his case.

To learn more about Maryland’s texting while driving laws, click here.

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