A teenage boy was found dead after a car accident early Saturday morning, December 2nd. The crash occurred shortly before 1 a.m. The teen was one of four other teenagers, including the driver, in the car at the time of the wreck. According to the Houston Police Department, officers attempted to pull over a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu for reckless driving near Rankin Road and Kuykendahl Road when the driver sped away. During the chase, the driver turned off the car’s headlights in an attempt to hide from the police while driving at speeds of 80 to 85 mph. While driving with the headlights off, the driver struck a Toyota Camry and lost control before hitting a pickup truck at the intersection of Veterans Memorial Drive and Bammel North Houston Road, in Houston, Texas. The Houston crash left the deceased teenager stuck in the vehicle and the other three teenagers, as well as one of the other drivers, were transported to a nearby hospital in stable condition.
This car wreck demonstrates how compounding one bad decision with another can cause what could have been an incident with minor consequences, into an incident with life-altering consequences. The teenage driver now faces felony murder charges for killing his friend.
What is Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving occurs when a driver operates a vehicle on a public road without taking into account the safety of other people or their personal property. In this case, the driver was initially pulled over for driving at reckless speeds. However, the driver refused to stop and took in an attempt to evade arrest. If the driver had pulled over when police first tried to stop the vehicle, the driver would have received a reckless driving ticket worth up to $200, and, in the worst-case scenario, could have faced up to 30 days in jail. However; instead of pulling over, the driver chose to speed away, attempting to evade arrest. This is just another example of the reckless driving epidemic in Houston that is contributing to a rise in fatal car accidents.
What is the Penalty for Evading Arrest?
The penalty for evading arrest depends upon whether you attempt to flee from a police officer on foot or whether you attempt to do it in a motor vehicle. Attempting to flee on foot is classified as a class A misdemeanor in Texas. However, becuase fleeing at high speeds in a motor vehicle places others at risk of injury or death, evading arrest in a motor vehicle is a state jail felony in Texas. It carries with it a penalty of up to 2 years in jail and a $10,000.00 fine.
What is Felony Murder?
Felony murder is defined as when someone is committing a felony and, in the process, performs an act “clearly dangerous to human life” that results in the death of another person. In this instance, the driver was committing the initial felony by evading arrest in a motor vehicle. While evading the police, the driver struck multiple cars leading to the unintentional death of one of the passengers. Now he can and has been charged with felony murder.
What is the Punishment for Felony Murder in Texas?
Felony murder is punishable by a minimum of 5 years in prison and a maximum of a life sentence as well as a fine of up to $10,000. In the state of Texas, felony murder is found under Texas Penal Code 19.02(b)(3). It is a subset of the definition of murder and is therefore treated the same way as a “standard murder.”
Compounding the Consequences
Had the driver simply pulled over and faced the consequences when first asked to, his worst-case scenario was 30 days in jail for reckless driving and a $200.00 fine. As a teen, he might have even walked with just a fine. Instead, he made the poor decision to try to outrun the police. That decision caused the wrongful death of his friend and left him facing the potential of life in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.
Knowing how to properly and safely handle a traffic stop is an important part of being a driver. If you are pulled over by the police, it is best to cooperate with them. Otherwise, you could turn a minor situation into a much bigger problem. In addition to the criminal consequences, the passengers and the heirs of the deceased will have the right to bring civil passenger claims for injury due to the grossly negligent conduct of the driver.
Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., Injury & Accident Lawyers has been proudly helping passengers recover from the actions of their negligent drivers since 1979.