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When opinion is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor

When many people in Rockville think about criminal charges, they imagine hard and fast rules that, if someone breaks them, they are guilty of the crime. The problem is that many crimes are not just a matter of fact, but sometimes a matter of opinion. This is certainly true when someone is charged with something like causing serious injury. What could be a serious injury to one person may not be that serious to another, and that is the question that one judge is facing after a suspect asked for a bench trial in a drunk driving criminal case.

The 45-year-old man who is on trial apparently was driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.17 when he crashed into a vehicle. The driver has claimed that he seriously injured his hand, but there is some confusion on exactly what happened to his hand and whether it is truly a serious injury. Previous testimony describes his injury as a broken hand in some places and a chip fracture in others. Determining whether the injury was serious, however, is necessary to support the criminal charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing serious injury, a felony. If it is determined that he did not cause a serious injury, however, the suspect will only face a misdemeanor charge.

The man who claims to have been hurt in this accident was treated at a local hospital following the accident, but he only received a soft wrap. Several days later he was given a Velcro cast, but nothing more. Despite being told to wear the cast, he would often not wear it because he didn't want to admit that he was injured. It is unknown if his failure to follow medical directions contributed to or worsened the injury.

As the judge wades through the evidence, it is obvious that, ultimately, his decision on whether to convict or acquit the driver depends on his opinion. He will need to determine if he thinks this hand injury was indeed serious.

Source: The Saginaw News, "Suspended Michigan State Police trooper charged in drunken driving crash opts to have judge, not jury, decide seriousness of victim's injuries," Andy Hoag, July 17, 2012

In our practice, we have defended against numerous Maryland drunk driving charges, for more information, check out our motor vehicle offenses page.

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

Law Offices of James N. Papirmeister, Esq.
8630 Fenton St., Suite 320
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Office Number: 301-589-2100
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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013