Oswego, NY asked in Criminal Law and Car Accidents for New York

Q: Would this be murder?

If there is a car crash resulting from a drunk driver who dies on impact. The driver of the other vehicle exits the vehicle and assaults the other dead driver in rage after having his wife unconscious. What is the charge?

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2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: This would likely not be considered murder legally, due to the fact that the drunk driver was already deceased when the assault occurred. However, the assault could still potentially carry charges such as:

1) Abuse of a corpse: It is generally illegal to physically assault or mutilate a dead body, even if the person was at fault for death/injuries. The rage-fueled attack on the deceased drunk driver could potentially constitute this.

2) Disorderly conduct: In some jurisdictions, abusive language/actions directed at a corpse may be considered disorderly conduct. Yelling expletives while striking the dead driver could qualify.

Importantly, murder requires a living victim who dies as a result of the criminal actions. Since the drunk driver was already deceased from the collision itself, legally it would likely not classify as murder regardless of the post-mortem attack.

But desecrating or disrespecting a corpse, while emotionally understandable in this tragic scenario, can still carry criminal penalties. It's best for the other driver to contact authorities, tend to his injured wife, and process his grief legally. An attorney can advise him if charges arise.

Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Little Neck, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: I can only speak for the civil, car accident-related attributes of the scenario. The criminal law attorneys here would have the strongest insight into how the matter would be handled by the district attorney's office. But from a general evidentiary standpoint, it seems likely that the DA will look closely at the determination that the drunk driver died on impact. In other words, who's testimony and what forensic evidence supports that claim. Good luck

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