Could you be held responsible for allowing someone else to drive drunk? According to police in Glastonbury, Connecticut, the answer is yes. Two teenagers have been criminally charged after police say they allowed a “highly intoxicated” friend to drive home after a party.
Around 5 a.m. on July 14, 2013, 17-year old Jane Modlesky got behind the wheel of a 2008 Honda Pilot and crashed into a tree. Sadly, her injuries proved to be fatal. Her blood-alcohol level at the scene was .27, more than three times the .08 legal limit for those over 21.
The party Modlesky attended prior to the accident was thrown by another 17-year old whose parents were out of town. That teen has been charged with permitting minors to possess alcohol.
According to police, early in the morning of June 14, Modlesky and four teenage boys decided to drive home from the party in an SUV belonging to the parents of the teen who hosted the party. The vehicle was initially driven by one boy, age 16, who dropped off one passenger before getting out at his own home and handing over the keys to another 16-year old boy. The second boy got behind the wheel and drove to his own home where he and the remaining male passenger got out, allowing Moldesky to drive home on her own.
The driver and passenger immediately prior to Moldesky taking the wheel were both charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree, and the driver was additionally charged with violation of passenger restrictions for teenage drivers and operating a motor vehicle between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
While the story is a clearly a tragic one, it definitely raises some important legal and ethical dilemmas. Certainly, from an ethical perspective, these two teenage boys should be admonished for allowing their friend to get behind the wheel. With a BAC of .27 it should have been obvious to the boys that Moldesky was in no state to drive.
The question of criminally charging the two teens with reckless endangerment, however, is a murkier proposition. In most states, there is rarely an affirmative legal duty to stop another person from engaging in criminal conduct. Accordingly, many lawyers and legal experts say that the Glastonbury police are overreaching with these charges. Still, many others argue that such charges can be an effective way to deter others from drunk driving.
According to Connecticut Statutory law, “a person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when he or she recklessly engages in conduct which creates risk of physical injury to another person.” A person acts recklessly with respect to a result or circumstance when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstances exist. Essentially, the state will have to prove that the boys’ conduct in allowing Moldesky to drive was the cause of the accident. This will be a difficult burden of proof to achieve.
Whether you believe that the charges against the two teens are appropriate or not, I think we can all agree that this was an extremely tragic but avoidable accident. As the holidays approach, Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA reminds everyone to drive safely and cautiously. If you see an intoxicated friend or family member attempting to get behind the wheel, urge them to stop, even if it means taking their keys. Intoxicated individuals can be stubborn or difficult to deal with, but temporarily bothering them is well worth avoiding a potential drunk driving accident.