Criminal Vehicular Homicide Victim’s Alcohol Consumption Relevant

The conviction of a Defendant found guilty of 3 counts of criminal vehicular homicide has been overturned by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and he will be given a new trial. In State v. Jeremy Scott Nelson, the Court of Appeals maintained that the victim’s blood alcohol content should also be considered if the jury is allowed to hear evidence of the Defendant’s blood alcohol content. The Court of Appeals also found that the district court erred in its’ instructions to the jury.

A jury found Jeremy Scott Nelson, hereafter Defendant, guilty of three counts of criminal vehicular homicide for colliding with the victim’s vehicle which had entered Defendant’s driving path moments before the crash.

The Defendant and the victim had been out drinking together the night of the incident and left the home of a mutual friend several minutes apart. Defendant was driving a pick-up truck and the victim was driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Defendant’s pick-up entered a ditch after missing a curve and struck the victim’s ATV from behind after it veered into Defendant’s path. The victim died several minutes after the collision occurred. Defendant’s blood alcohol content almost 6 hours after the accident was measured at 0.056 and 0.058. The victim’s blood alcohol concentration as measured after the accident was 0.15.

The district court excluded all evidence of the victim’s alcohol consumption from the day of the accident, but allowed for evidence of the Defendant’s alcohol consumption to come in at trial. A jury found the Defendant guilty of 3 counts of criminal vehicular homicide. Defendant appealed the jury conviction on the basis that the court erred in excluding evidence of the victim’s alcohol consumption and by failing to instruct the jury on the proper definition of causation.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Defendant finding that since the negligent conduct of both the parties is relevant in the death of the victim, the district court erred by excluding evidence of the victim’s alcohol consumption while allowing evidence of the Defendant’s alcohol consumption. The Court of Appeals also held that the jury should have been instructed that for the Defendant to be found guilty they must find that his driving conduct played a substantial part in bringing about the death or injury of the victim driver. Because the victim’s ATV entered Defendant’s driving path just moments before the crash, the jury should have had a specific instruction on causation as it relates to criminal culpability.

Criminal vehicular homicide or criminal vehicular operation charges are very serious and carry hefty potential consequences of prison and fines. If you have been charged with or are under investigation for criminal vehicular homicide or criminal vehicular operation, it is essential to your future liberties that you speak to a Minneapolis Criminal Defense Lawyer right away!