Hit-and-Run Results in a Reckless Homicide Charge
An 8-year old boy recently died after being hit by a car while he was trying to get mail from his family’s mailbox. The collision happened on KY 259 South, in Hardinsburg, Kentucky. The driver refused to stop, but was arrested shortly after the police were called. Let’s explore why this hit-and-run results in a reckless homicide charge.
Isn’t this a Personal Injury Case?
Normally, when there’s an injury, people automatically assume it’s a personal injury case. However, due to the nature of the fatality, this case will initially proceed in criminal court, not civil court (where personal injury cases are heard).
In a traffic fatality, it’s not uncommon for the family (or the “estate of the deceased”) to pursue a civil action for wrongful death, loss of consortium and other claims. However, in Kentucky, the criminal case is often pursued first. The civil proceeding can actually take place, even if the defendant is incarcerated.
Why Is this Considered Reckless Homicide?
Let’s deal with the first issue. Even though there was a death due to an action committed by the driver of the car, there’s a lack of evidence to show “intent.” The driver most likely didn’t try to kill the boy. For this reason, murder doesn’t apply.
Under Kentucky law, the lowest level charge in a homicide, is reckless homicide. The defendant may have taken an unnecessary risk or engaged in conduct that caused the death of the boy, even though malice and/or premeditation wasn’t involved.
Reckless Homicide is a Class D Felony and carries a penalty of 1-5 years in prison.
Now, if investigators were to later find out that there was an argument or an ongoing series of arguments between the driver and the victim’s family, it may be possible that the charges could be increased. For instance, if this were due to an altercation or even an attempt to intimidate a member of the family. However, let me be explicitly clear, nothing has been reported to show that this is the case. It’s an ongoing investigation. It may turn out to be a tragic situation for this Breckenridge County family.
As it stands, this hit-and-run results in a reckless homicide charge. Given what we currently know, that’s probably the most appropriate level.
As a Kentucky criminal defense attorney, if I were representing the defendant, that’s exactly where I’d work to keep the charge. Depending upon the evidence and what the police can prove (or what they can’t prove), I might attempt to even argue for a lesser charge. Again, it always depends upon what they can prove – regardless of the tragedy of the situation for victim’s family.