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NM State Supreme Court Rules Fleeing Criminal Causing Fatal Crash Can be Charged With Murder

Felony Murder Charges for Fleeing Criminal Running from Police in New Mexico and Causing a Fatal Auto Accident

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a person who causes the death of a person while fleeing from a police officer may face felony murder charges.  The case stems from the fatal 2017 accident where defendants Elexus Groves and Paul Garcia steel a van, fled from police, and ran a stop sign in a residential neighborhood and hit another car at 68 MPH.  As a result of the collision a mother and her teenage daughter were killed.  The fleeing criminal was not killed or seriously maimed.

Originally the district court dismissed the felony murder charge, only for the Supreme Court to reverse.  A felony murder charge allows an individual to be charged with murder during the commission of another felony that results in the loss of human life.  This includes even if the action was not one indeed to actually kill another person like murder usually is.  Rather, felony murder only requires that, in the commission of another felony, a defendant is acting with a culpable mental state or state of mind (known as mens rea) that they knew their actions created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.

Why is this Important for Personal Injury Victims?

This decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court, while in a criminal context, is very important for civil victims such as personal injury victims hurt in a New Mexico auto accident by a fleeing criminal. This is because a criminal conviction can be used in a civil trial to help prove liability.  For a wrongful death case, if a defendant was convicted of knowingly creating a “strong probability” of causing death or great bodily harm, it is also likely that this individual knew or should have known that he or she could have recklessly caused serious injury or death.

As such, it allows a victim to prove liability without having to do the legwork of establishing all of these facts.  Victims who can establish this type of liability may be entitled to damages for their personal injuries or the wrongful death of an innocent person.  

Using the Violations of a Statute to Prove a Case

Moreover, proving the death of an innocent person can also have other legal ramifications.  For instance, the cause for the collision in this case was running a stop sign and presumably speeding 68 MPH in a residential neighborhood likely set no higher than 30 MPH, probably 25 MPH.  

The violation of a statute can be used against a defendant to prove liability as well.  This is known as the negligence per se doctrine.  Through the doctrine of negligence per se, a defendant’s violation of a statute that causes harm to a person that the statute was meant to prevent that harm to that individual could be used to automatically establish liability.  This is another way that a criminal’s actions could be used to prove a New Mexico auto accident.

Ask the Caruso Law Offices, P.C. for help if You Were Injured in an Auto Accident Caused by a Fleeing Criminal

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident with a defendant who was fleeing, call the Caruso Law Offices, P.C. to learn how we can help protect your rights to compensation under New Mexico law.  We accept cases on a contingency fee agreement which means that we do not get paid until you get paid in a settlement or court award.

We handle causes throughout New Mexico, including Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Roswell, Cuervo, Rio Rancho, Clovis, Farmington, Hobbs, Albuquerque where our office is located, and anywhere else throughout New Mexico.  Please call to schedule for FREE appointment by dialing (505) 308-0427 or contact us through our website’s easy to use and convenient contact box available here.