A key part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature pedestrian safety program, Vision Zero, has been ruled unconstitutional by a Queens criminal court judge. Judge Gia Morris ruled on June 24 that the portion of the law imposing a misdemeanor criminal charge on drivers who strike and kill pedestrians or bicyclists – failure to exercise due care – violates defendants’ due process.
The ruling came as part of a case involving school bus driver Isaac Sanson, who struck and killed an 85-year-old pedestrian in Forest Hills, Queens, in 2014.
Morris said the rule uses a lower standard to prove negligence in criminal cases, placing onus on the driver to prove he wasn’t negligent. Lower standards are usually used for civil cases and criminal cases should be subject to a higher standard of negligence, like reckless or intentional behavior, the judge said.
Some criminal defense attorneys have questioned the fairness of the right of way law that holds drivers criminally responsible for what they argue are accidents that don’t rise to the level of criminality. Morris’ decision is non-binding, as an appeals court may hear one or more of the cases that involve the law. Other courts have upheld the law, and the NYPD and DA’s offices can still enforce it.
De Blasio spokesman Austin Finan told the New York Post, “This is an important piece of Vision Zero’s comprehensive approach to reducing death and serious injury on our streets. We disagree with the court’s non-binding decision and will continue to investigate, enforce, and charge this law.”
If you or a loved one has been arrested in connection with a traffic accident or for any other criminal offense, contact an attorney for help. Adam H. Rosenblum of the Rosenblum Law is a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience helping people in similar situations. Email the Rosenblum Law or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.