Recently in Leaving the Scene of an Accident Category

June 23, 2014

Suffolk County DA Calls Upon Albany to Toughen Sentencing for Hit-and-Runs

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called upon Albany lawmakers in June 2014 to toughen the penalties for hit-and-run drivers. Spota stated that many drivers who are drunk or impaired by drugs often flee the scene of accidents because they know that hit-and-run penalties are not as severe as sentences for DWI charges. Spota remarked, "A drunk or drug impaired driver who kills someone may face up to 25 years in prison. But fleeing the accident scene allows the wrongdoer a chance to sober up, and under the current law, any driver guilty of a hit-and-run faces a maximum prison sentence of seven years--even when someone dies or even if the defendant has a prior felony record."

gavel2.jpgSpota's remarks came the day before an Eastport man, Peter Torrillo, a married 48-year-old man with four children, received a sentence of 28 months to seven years after leaving the scene of an accident that killed a young mother and seriously injured her passenger. On November 2, 2013, Torrillo was driving on Montauk Highway in Eastport when he hit Erika Strebel, 27, and Edward Barton, 26. Strebel and Burton were pulled over on the side of the road to fill up their jeep which had run out of gas. Strebel, a mother of a 5-year-old boy, was rushed to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead a short time later. Burton was airlifted to another hospital for sustaining serious injuries that have left him in a wheelchair.

According to prosecutors, Torrillo, who was convicted of driving while ability impaired in 2012, knowingly fled the scene of the fatal accident. When Torrillo got home, he showered, shaved and headed back out to a local bar. While driving to the bar, Torrillo passed the scene of the accident. The next day, he took his car to a repair shop in Queens in an attempt to cover up the crime. Relying on a witness who saw Torrillo flee the scene, investigators were able to match paint chips left at the accident with paint on Torrillo's repaired car. Three weeks after the accident, he was arrested and charged with a fatal hit-and-run.

Assistant District Attorney Carl Borelli stated that police investigators believe that Torrillo was impaired at the time of the accident and fled the scene in order to avoid harsher penalties. Borelli stated, "It is that belief that someone takes off essentially because they are drunk or high. Just like this--you know, this guy had a prior impaired conviction for driving while impaired by drugs."

While reading a victim impact statement at Torrillo's sentencing, Tammy Barton, Edward Barton's sister-in-law, stated that Strebel's death has had a profound impact on Strebel's young son Ayden. On Mother's Day, she brought the boy to visit his mother's grave. The boy laid down at the foot of his mother's tombstone and began talking to her. Barton looked over at Turrillo and remarked, "Picture this, Peter, okay? I hope you have this image in your head, because it's burned into mine."

Website Resource: L.I. Man Sentenced For Hit-And-Run Crash That Killed Young Mother, CBS News

Maximum Sentence For Driver In Fatal Eastport Hit-And-Run Accident, The Southampton Press, Kyle Campbell, June 10, 2014

July 25, 2013

Queens Hit and Run Driver Speeds Off While Cyclist Clings to His Roof

A Queens driver struck a cyclist early Wednesday morning in Woodside. The collision flipped the cyclist onto the roof of the driver's car. Rather than stopping, however, the driver continued driving with the cyclist reportedly yelling and banging on the roof of the vehicle. The victim clung to the roof for a couple of blocks before being thrown off when the driver made a turn onto a different street. The car sped off while the victim lay seriously injured on the street. According to the Daily News the cyclist is in serious condition at Elmhurst Hospital. Police found an abandoned vehicle matching the description of the hit and run car shortly after the incident, but were still investigating as to whether it was the actual car involved.

Based on the circumstances of the accident, the driver, if and when he is caught, will have a difficult time claiming that he was unaware that he struck the cyclist. As part of the case that must be made in hit and run accidents, the prosecution must show that the driver of the car knew or had cause to know that he had hit someone or something. If the witness statements provided by the Daily News are accurate, there is little chance that the driver was unaware that he had hit the cyclist. Of course any charges levied against the driver, when found, will not be as serious as they would have been had the cyclist died from his injuries. Still, if he is apprehended, he will most certainly face criminal charges with resulting jail time as a possible penalty.

The story, including observations from eyewitnesses, can be found in the New York Daily News:

Queens, N.Y., hit-and-run driver speeds away with bicyclist on roof, flinging him off

June 26, 2013

Victim of Hit and Run Dies, Body Transported Adjacent to Refuse by ME

Late last week, an Irish national, Kevin Bell, was struck and killed by a Bronx hit and run driver as he was returning to his home for the summer in Woodlawn. According to the NY Post, the young man had been drinking in Manhattan prior to the accident. A witness claimed that the victim had laid down in the middle of the street just before being struck. Before the witness could get to Bell, he was struck by a car. The witness said that the car appeared to pull to the side briefly after the collision, but then continue driving.

Also disturbing about this incident is the manner in which the body was treated by the Medical Examiner after death. When the two ME's arrived, photographs documented them placing the body in the back of the city ME van, which for some reason was filled with bags of recycling. The Office of the Medical Examiner has promised to investigate the incident to determine why the bags were in the van, and why the body was treated in such an undignified manner.

The legal consequences of the two aspects of this tragedy are somewhat tenuous. Should the driver of the car that struck Bell be identified, it is conceivable that he or she could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. The driver could also be charged with a hit and run resulting in death, which is a felony and carries a fine and prison sentence. Based on the facts given by the Post, however, this seems unlikely. The victim laid down in the middle of the road, which was quite dark at 3:30 in the morning. The witness felt that the driver knew that he hit something. But a driver only has a duty to stop and identify himself if he knows or has reason to believe that he caused personal injury to another person while operating his vehicle. Under these circumstances, it seems equally likely that the driver thought he had it an animal or a speed bump than a human being lying in the middle of the road at 3:30 in the morning.

From a civil aspect, although the body was transported in an undignified manner, it is dubious whether a loss of sepulcher would arise out of this incident. Although placed next to refuse, the right of the next of kin to the body was not interfere with, as presumably the ME was transporting the body back with the proper purpose, albeit in an unorthodox and improper manner. There was no inadvertent disposition of the deceased's remains, and no indication that the family was not notified as soon as practicable.

The Post's story on this tragic hit and run can be found here.

March 5, 2013

Legislators Call for Tougher Penalties for Hit and Run

In the aftermath of the tragic accident that killed a married couple and their unborn child, several state legislators have called for reforms to New York State hit and run statutes. The New York Post reports that at least three legislators are championing reform that would allow for a presumption, under the law, of driving while intoxicated in cases of leaving the scene of an accident.

fender.jpgUnder current New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 600(2)(a), a driver must provide identification to the injured party if the driver knows or has reason to know that he has caused personal injury to another person while operating a motor vehicle. Failing this, the driver must report the accident to a police officer either at the scene or, as soon as physically possible, to the nearest police station. A hit and run accident resulting in death is deemed a Class D felony, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and possible prison time.

Assuming that the driver was under the influence, as the lawmakers are considering proposing, would add a much stiffer penalty to the hit and run driver responsible for the death of Raizel and Nachman Glauber in Brooklyn this past weekend. Under New York Penal Law section 125.14, the driver could be guilty of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide for his role in the deaths. Aggravated Vehicular Homicide is a Class B felony, as opposed to the Class D described in the paragraph above. In New York, severity of felonies ranges from A (most severe) to E (least severe). A Class B felony would carry a much stiffer penalty than a Class D.

Of course, at this point, legislators are simply discussing these possible changes. How much, if any, traction they will be able to gain with their fellow state senators and assembly-people remains to be seen. It will be an interesting topic to follow in the coming months, as the proposed legislation stems from a tragedy that has gotten intense local and national attention already.

The New York Post covered the statements. A write-up can be found at the link below.

Pols: No more 'flee' passes

November 19, 2012

Brooklyn Man Dead after Hit and Run

A hit and run accident in Brooklyn last week left a father dead at the scene and his companion seriously injured. The two pedestrians were struck in the early morning hours on Thursday in Williamsburg. Police did find and arrest a suspect after the accident. According to the NY Post, the driver was charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury.

ambulance.jpgBecause the pedestrian died as a result of the hit and run, the driver of the vehicle could face charges as serious as a Class D felony. It is unclear from the story in the Post whether or not alcohol was involved in the incident. Regardless, the fact that this was a hit and run, and that it resulted in the death of another person, leaves open the possibility of both a hefty fine and jail time for the alleged driver.

The full story can be found here in the NY Post.

October 26, 2012

Queens Hit and Run Suspect Arrested

A Queens driver, charged with leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly striking and killing a pedestrian with his SUV, was arrested Saturday morning in his home. The car hit the pedestrian after it jumped a curb. The elderly pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene.

pedestrian cross.jpgAs previously discussed on this blog, a hit and run that results in death is a very serious matter. The death of an individual involved in the hit and run elevates the potential charge to a Class D felony. The punishment for a Class D Felony can be up to five thousand dollars, as well as a prison sentence. At the time this story was first reported here by the NY Daily News, the suspect was still awaiting arraignment.

October 2, 2012

Brooklyn Cyclist Dead after Possible Hit and Run

biker.jpgPolice are investigating a possible hit and run in Brooklyn this morning that left a bicyclist dead from his injuries, according to the NY Post. At first it seemed that the rider had simply fallen, however police now think that the accident may have been a hit and run.

When a hit and run results in death, charges can be as serious as a Class D felony. This charge can be brought when a driver, when knowing or having cause to know that he has injured another party, leaves the scene of the accident and the other party subsequently dies. The investigation here is ongoing. Presumably the Post will update the story as more details become available.

The Post's account can be found here.

September 26, 2012

Pedestrian Critical After Queens Hit and Run

The New York Post reports that a Queens man is in critical condition after being hit by a car while walking along the street in Elmhurst earlier this week. At the time of the Post's story, the hit and run driver had not been apprehended.pedestrians.jpg

As this blog has discussed previously, a driver must identify himself to the victim of an accident if the driver knows or has cause to know that he has caused that individual some personal injury. The driver in this case did not do so, although details in the story are sparse. The accident occurred at night, when visibility was probably not ideal. At the very least, the driver should have felt that his car hit something, however. The safest move for a driver in such a situation is to stop and assess the situation, as even damage to property requires a driver to provide identification at the scene.

The full NY Post story can be found on its website, or by clicking here.

September 20, 2012

Driver Acquitted in Death of Bicyclist

Earlier today, a US postal worker was acquitted of leaving the scene of an accident. His truck struck and killed a bicyclist last summer. The postal worker, Ian Clement, claims to have felt something under his tire. He pulled over to wait for someone to approach his vehicle; when no one did he drove off.

NY Vehicle and Traffic Law section 600(2)(a) is the controlling statute in this instance. Key to the analysis is that the section stipulates that in order to be in violation of this statute, a driver must know or have cause to know that he or she has caused personal injury to another person. Of course, when the victim of a hit and run dies, the charges become more serious, raising to the level of a class D Felony. As Clement was acquitted, the jury presumably felt that he did not have cause to know that he had struck a person. The family of the victim, including husband Nathan Dershowitz (brother of OJ Simpson defense attorney Alan Dershowitz) were notably upset upon hearing the verdict, according to the New York Post. The jury found that reasonable doubt existed as to Clement's knowledge of the circumstances at the time of the accident, and as such he left the courtroom today a free man.

The full story, as detailed by the NY Post, can be found here.

September 19, 2012

Lohan Arrested Again After Allegedly Striking Pedestrian with Car

Lindsay Lohan is in the news again after she allegedly struck a pedestrian with her car early this morning. The actress was driving in downtown Manhattan when the incident in question occurred. Because she did not stay at the scene, but rather entered the Dream Hotel, Lohan was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

pedestrian.jpgNew York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 600(2)(a) mandates that a person, when operating his or her motor vehicle, knows or has cause to know that he or she has caused personal injury to another person, the driver must provide identification to the injured party. The story, reported in the NY Post, does not mention whether Lohan provided her information to the injured pedestrian, although it would appear from the arrest that she did not. Under normal circumstances, this situation would constitute a Class B misdemeanor. Lohan, however, is currently on probation, and has had driving violations in the past, which could amplify the charges in this case.

The New York Post has the full story here.

September 14, 2012

Westchester County Personal Injury Attorney Report: Two People Hospitalized After Brooklyn Hit and Run

The New York Post reports that a driver and his passenger were hospitalized early Friday morning after being struck on the Bayonne Bridge by another motorist. The hit and run driver then fled in the vehicle of a man who had stopped to see if he could assist at the scene. The stolen truck was later recovered, however the hit and run driver has not yet been apprehended.

wreck.jpgAs this blog has discussed previously, the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates that when the driver of a motor vehicle knowingly causes damage to the personal property of another, he or she must stop and identify himself to the other driver. NYVTL section 600(1)(a). In this case the driver certainly would have known that at the very least he caused damage to the other vehicle, even if unaware of personal injuries to the vehicle's occupants. Additionally, depending upon the value of the subsequently stolen truck, the hit and run driver may well be charged with grand larceny in the third or fourth degree. New York Penal Code 155.30; 155.35.

The full story can be found here in the New York Post.