As the clock continues to tick on the 2011 Maryland legislative session, roadway users across the state are continuing to push for the passage of House Bill 363, “Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel, criminal negligence.”
This bill would provide a significant addition to roadway safety, and is sorely needed to fill a gap in existing Maryland law that too often allows “I didn’t see her” to serve as an effective defense to criminal prosecution when a negligent driver kills a bicyclist.
Here’s why this law is needed:
The existing crime of manslaughter by vehicle requires proof that the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial risk of killing someone. Except for drivers who were either drunk or at least 30 mph faster than the speed of traffic, no one has been convicted unless a witness at trial testified as to the driver’s state of mind, which makes it impossible to convict most solo drivers.
Maryland is one of only a handful of states where a conviction for vehicular homicide is so difficult. Under House Bill 363, it will be possible to convict a defendant who should have known there was a risk of killing someone, without proving that the defendant actually knew about the risk.
The bill has now passed the House, so the most serious potential obstacle for this bill is getting stuck in the Senate Committee to which the bill would has been referred: the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Not that there is any opposition: but the Legislature adjourns April 11 and they have other things to do.
The Senate committee Chairman is Brian Frosh from District 16 in Montgomery County. Because you live in District 16, the rest of us are counting on you to call Chairman Frosh. His office can be reached at 301-858-3124. In the end-of-session competition between time and priorities, personal calls from constituents are the best method of voicing your support.
However, if you are unable to place a phone call, please take a moment to send an email to Chairman Frosh via the link below:
CLICK HERE TO EMAIL CHAIRMAN FROSH.