Long Island doctor charged with manslaughter in DWI crash

If you drink and drive, the consequences could be a lot more severe than fines and loss of your driver’s license. According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol impairment is a factor in almost one-third of traffic fatalities in the United States.

An example involves a Long Island cardiologist who, police say, was driving at around 4 a.m. this past June, ran a red light, and struck another vehicle, the driver of which was killed in the accident. The doctor, whose blood alcohol content was reported to be 0.10, a bit higher than the legal limit, was originally charged only with driving while intoxicated. But after the original charge was filed, a grand jury handed down an indictment charging him with second degree manslaughter. This week the doctor entered a plea of not guilty to the homicide charge.

Obviously, the ramifications are far greater for a homicide conviction than for a DWI. Take the case of another Long Island man, who was convicted late last month of aggravated vehicular homicide in a 2012 drunk driving incident that resulted in the death of 18-year old Brittney Walsh. He was acquitted on the charge of second degree murder.

The differences between the various homicide offenses can be confusing, and while the choice of which particular crime is charged in a specific case will be largely a function of the facts presented, there is also a good deal of prosecutorial discretion in determining the offense or offenses that will be charged against a particular individual in a DWI case resulting in a death. The cardiologist mentioned above, for example, is facing the charge of second degree manslaughter, a class D felony. In the earlier case, the defendant was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, a class B felony. Had the man been convicted of the more serious charge of second degree murder, he would be facing sentencing for a class A-I felony.

Clearly, these distinctions can have a huge impact on the sentence imposed on someone convicted of any one of these crimes. The difference can amount to, among others things, years (more or less) behind bars.

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