Oh Hell No!! Loophole in New Hampshire law may prevent suspect from facing criminal charges
WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – Today marks one week since a West Springfield man crashed the flatbed tractor trailer he was driving, killing seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire.
23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy is currently being held on a detention order without bail, but we’re learning, because of the way New Hampshire laws are written, there’s a chance he might not be criminally charged.
Right now, Zhukovskyy faces seven negligent homicide charges.
Police say his truck crossed the center line of the road, striking the motorcyclists, but there’s currently no evidence that anything, like texting, distracted driving, or impairment, caused him to cross the line.
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A former New Hampshire state prosecutor says he may be able to await his trial without remaining in jail.
“Very tragically, seven people lost their lives. No one is arguing that that’s not tragic, but, in terms of dangerousness to the community, is this likely to occur again if this person is released?” asked former New Hampshire state prosecutor Patricia LaFlare.
A former New Hampshire state prosecutor argues that Volodymyr Zhukovskyy could await his trial out of jail.
She says, under New Hampshire law, absent a provable distraction, like texting or driving under the influence, Zhukovskyy’s crossing of the center line is not enough to charge him criminally in the crash that killed seven motorcyclists.
She says his former troubled driving history could play a role in determining a potential bail amount.
“Again, when you’re determining dangerousness, you’re really talking about in the moment,” says LaFlare.
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Western Mass News checked with Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni and he says the same is not true in Massachusetts.
“There are grades, so, if there isn’t sort of a, so to speak, aggravating factor, like distraction, texting…if there isn’t one of those aspects, at least that we can prove. The standard then becomes negligent driving and then the penalty is a range, but that range could be probation, house of correction time, and, in some cases, state prison time,” stated Gulluni.
Coos county lawyers say Zhukovskyy was allowed to leave the accident and return home after being questioned, saying they needed to establish probable cause before arresting him.
Gulluni says the Bay State’s action wouldn’t have likely been the same.
“Every case is different, but I’m fairly confident in saying now that, if there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, a police officer can generally place a person under arrest. Given the severity of the offense and the loss of life in particular, an individual in Massachusetts would not have left the scene by his own volition,” stated Gulluni.
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Still, he acknowledges the trauma of the accident would have put a strain on the first responders, whose first priority is to preserve as many lives as possible, rather than prosecute.
“I am just taken by the tragedy of it all. I think most people are. I certainly would not criticize law enforcement. I’m sure they are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. It was a very complicated incident, obviously an incident that has rendered seven families now into grief,” added Gulluni.
Zhukovskyy’s trial is set to begin in November.
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