With two bills before the legislature that would ban texting while driving, officials may be testing the waters by charging a woman with vehicular homicide for allegedly hitting and killing a man while she was texting. Her attorney states that she wasn’t texting and the charge does not fit what happened on that October day.
On October 30, 2009 Lori Reineke hit and killed James Eaton III as he crossed the street. Reineke had a green light and was said to be obeying the speed limit. Eaton, however, was said to have crossed against the light. Although police aren’t saying what led them to the belief that Reineke was texting, they claim it was her texting that caused her inattention.
In order to be charged with first degree vehicular homicide, there must have been some aggravating circumstances (DUI, reckless driving, fleeing police, etc.). The police allege that Eaton’s texting constitutes reckless driving as defined by Georgia law and subsequently charged her accordingly.
She is actually facing multiple charges: reckless driving, vehicular homicide, and failure to exercise due care and engaging in actions which distract from the safe operation of a motor vehicle. Eaton posted $34,900 and was released the following day.
Many states already have texting bans in place. Georgia would certainly not be the first. If this charge sticks and Reineke is convicted, it could set precedence for future similar cases.
Because vehicular homicide is the most serious criminal “traffic” offense, we don’t see it often. More common are charges of reckless driving, and aggressive driving. Both of these are misdemeanors and carry a potential 1 year jail sentence.
Charges that involve the use of a vehicle can not only lead to jail time and fines but also a driver’s license suspension that can span years.
When facing charges like reckless driving, you need an attorney who understands the laws on the books and those that haven’t yet been passed. Contact me today for a consultation on your criminal case and to see how I may be able to help.