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Massachusetts Student Charged With Motor Vehicle Homicide

On November 23, 2008 a Westfield, Massachusetts 17 year old high school student was driving a car under the influence of alcohol.  The result was an accident that killed a Westfield High School junior and injured 3 other teenagers.  The driver now faces charges of motor vehicle homicide, operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, operating to endanger and three counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol causing serious bodily injury.  Reports suggest that the defendant was driving at a high rate of speed when he lost control of his vehicle on a curve and struck a tree.  Charges are now pending in the Westfield District Court.

If prosecuted in the district court the maximum the defendant can be sentenced to upon a conviction is 2 1/2 years in the house of correction.  The prosecution can however indict this case and if billed the matter is prosecuted in the superior court.  There, a defendant can be sentenced to 15 years in state prison.  The controlling statute for motor vehicle homicide cases in Massachusetts is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24G.  Subsection (a) requires a convicted person to serve at least one year in the jail.  This section requires that the prosecution prove that the person operated with a .08 blood alcohol or higher and that he operated recklessly or negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered.  The elements necessary to find criminal culpability for vehicular homicide are (1) operation of a motor vehicle, (2) upon a public way, (3) recklessly or negligently so as to endanger human life or safety, (4) thereby causing the death of a person and (5) a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater.  There is a mandatory 15 year loss of license associated with convictions for these offenses.