There has been an interesting turn of events in the case of the deadly car accident that happened in Philadelphia just after New Year's. Police are now pressing third-degree murder charges against the driver who crossed the median and collided with an oncoming vehicle, rather than for homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence (DUI). However, there are facts in the case that make it worth discussing the possibility of an insanity defense.
Fatal New Year's Car Crash Leads to Murder and DUI Charges
The crash happened on the night of January 2, 2019. A police chase in Delaware was called off when the driver's erratic behavior and speed threatened to cause a serious crash on the highway. The driver eventually made it all the way to Philadelphia, where he crossed the median on Packer Avenue near South 7th Street and hit an oncoming vehicle.
Three of the four occupants in the oncoming vehicle were killed in the crash. The last suffered serious injuries.
Police pressed charges against the driver for DUI and homicide by vehicle. Prosecutors have since decided to increase the charges to third degree murder allegations, based on the circumstances of the crash.
Increased Stakes of New Charges
The increase in charges is not a small one. The penalties for a conviction for vehicular homicide while under the influence include $25,000 in fines and between three and ten years in jail for each fatality in the crash. Each conviction for a third degree murder charge, though, comes with $25,000 in fines and between ten and 20 years in jail.
The new allegations in this case, therefore, increase the potential jail time from between nine and 30 years to between 30 and 60 years behind bars.
Circumstances Indicate Possible Insanity Defense
An interesting wrinkle in the case is the fact that the driver was reported to have been found with 15 to 20 stab wounds in his chest and torso, which police believe to be self-inflicted. There was also a knife on the passenger's seat, along with a “rambling” note that seems to have been written by the driver.
Police think that the driver was trying to kill himself.
The insanity defense is one of the most intricate and complicated aspects in all of criminal law because it quietly admits that the defendant did the deed, but that they should still not be held accountable because of their mental state at the time of the offense.
Perhaps the most important part about the insanity defense, though, is the one that is the most often overlooked: “Winning” a not guilty verdict through the insanity defense does not mean that the defendant can walk out of the courtroom and into normal life. Pennsylvania requires mandatory institutionalization of anyone who is deemed not guilty due to insanity. In many of these cases, the resulting confinement is for an indefinite period of time and can even outlast the jail sentence of a guilty verdict.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
The insanity defense has an important place in criminal defense law, but requires careful usage. If you have been accused of a crime and want a skilled legal defense, call criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento at his Philadelphia law office at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online.