A Pittsburgh-area man who caused an accident without actually striking anything with his vehicle can still be convicted on criminal charges related to accidents involving death or personal injury, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled.
In Commonwealth v. Lowry, the defendant, Christopher Anthony Lowry, argued that while he recklessly turned his car in front of other vehicles, causing them to crash and someone to die, there was not enough evidence to convict him of being "involved" in an accident because his vehicle didn't strike anything.
In October 2009, Mr. Lowry pulled out of a gas station toward Route 51 in Jefferson Hills. A witness testified that Mr. Lowry made a left turn across two lanes of traffic onto the highway. Mr. Lowry, according to the witness, crossed into oncoming traffic.
The driver of an oncoming SUV hit his brakes, which the witness said appeared to lock up, causing the driver to fishtail and hit a car coming in the opposite direction. The driver of the car coming in the opposite direction was killed.
The case required the court to determine whether Section 3742 of the Motor Vehicle Code requires a defendant to physically impact a vehicle, object or other person for the defendant to be deemed "involved" in an accident.
"To interpret Section 3742 to require some form of physical contact would permit defendants to circumvent that intent," Judge Judith F. Olson said. "For example, under [Mr. Lowry's] interpretation of Section 3742, a driver who intentionally runs someone off the road, yet does not contact the other vehicle, and then flees the scene, would not be guilty ... Certainly, such an absurd result was not the General Assembly's intent."
The judges relied on case law from California and Illinois courts that found similar statutes in those jurisdictions did not require physical contact for the statute to apply.
The Superior Court also looked at whether there was enough evidence to show Mr. Lowry knew, or should have known, he was "involved" in an accident that caused injury or death, as Section 3742 requires.