DWI/Homicide Must Be Cause of Death for Conviction State v. Eldridge

Normally, criminal liability in a prosecution involving vehicular homicide is based upon “but-for” causation – that is to say that the resulting death would not have occurred but for the reckless conduct of the defendant. However, when there is evidence to suggest that the volitional act of a third party resulted in the death, the reckless conduct of the defendant becomes irrelevant on the issue of guilt due to the lack of causation.

In this morning’s Appellate Division decision in State v. Eldridge, the defendant was charged with 2 counts of death by auto. The prosecution’s version of the case was that she operated an automobile while intoxicated in a reckless manner and crashed into a tree. Two passengers in her vehicle were killed in the accident. The defendant testified that one of the passenger’s caused the accident by pushing her face with his hands while she was driving immediately before the crash.

The Appellate Division ruled that the jury should have been charged on the issue of intervening causation since jury might have chosen to find that the accident did not directly result from the defendant’s intoxication and recklessness, but rather from the intervening actions of the passenger.

As a side issue, note that the defendant was permitted to utilize the extrapolation defense through an expert witness (Dr. Saferstein) on the drunk driving issue in the case as it related to the recklessness element of the vehicular homicide charge. This defense is not permitted in drunk driving cases in municipal court. (See State v. Tischio, 107 N.J. 504 (1987)).

Download a copy of State v. Eldridge.

Annual N.J. Arrest Search & Seizure Review on November 29th

This 3 credit hour CLE seminar is a “must attend” for attorneys and law enforcement professionals who absolutely, positively must be current on the law affecting 4th and 5th amendment issues in New Jersey.

The event is part of the Mercer County Bar Association’s XTREME CLE program and will run from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. It will be held at the National Conference Center in Hightstown, just a few inches off exit 8 of the Turnpike.

In addition to a full dinner and extensive materials, all who attend will receive a copy of the newly published “New Jersey Annual Arrest, Search & Seizure Review – 2006” by Thomson-West.

To reserve your spot at this critically important seminar, simply fill out and fax the attached order form. Questions???? Just call Francine at 609-585-6200 or e-mail her at francine@mercerbar.com.

Download a copy of the Arrest Search & Seizure Review .

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