Gwinnett County brings first vehicular homicide case based on texting while driving

Gwinnett police have charged Lori Reineke, 48, with homicide by vehicle for striking and killing a pedestrian with her vehicle while allegedly texting. This is the first case in Gwinnett County where authorities have charged a driver with homicide by vehicle for texting.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has the story.

Reineke was driving her Ford Edge through an intersection on Sugarloaf Parkway when she struck and killed 48-year-old James Eaton III. The accident occurred around 8 p.m. on October 30 during dark and rainy conditions. Police reports indicate that Eaton stepped into the crosswalk while Reineke had a green light. Reineke was not speeding or violating any other traffic laws.

Gwinnett police arrested Reineke on the notion that the outcome may have been different had she not been texting. Reineke’s defense attorney, Larry Delan, has publicly stated that his client was not texting at the time of the accident. Delan also believes that authorities are using Reineke as a test case in hopes of expanding vehicular homicide prosecutions. Currently, texting while driving is not a crime in Georgia although proposed legislation may change that in the near future.

Under Georgia law, homicide by vehicle is generally punished as a misdemeanor when a minor traffic violation results in the death of a person. However, the offense can be prosecuted as a felony if the driver was driving recklessly, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, fleeing a police officer, involved in a hit and run or failed to stop for a school bus.

Our criminal defense attorneys have successfully resolved several vehicular homicide cases. One of the most powerful defenses to a homicide by vehicle charge is to show that the driver’s conduct did not cause the death. As in this case, there are many times when the deceased’s own actions largely contributed to the death. Another powerful defense is to argue that the driver did not intend the act which resulted in the death. A good criminal defense attorney will work with law enforcement and prosecutors to show that his client is not criminally liable. Early intervention can often lead to dismissed or reduced charges.

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