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Could you be arrested for letting a friend drive drunk?

December 9, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

CT teens arrested for letting friend drive drunk in fatal car accident brings up interesting debate about how responsible friends should be for another’s drinking and driving

Jane Modlesky
Jane Modlesky

Believe it or not, if you allow someone else to drive drunk, you could be held accountable.

At least in Connecticut.  Over the weekend the news broke about a  tragic case in Glastonbury, CT, when two 17-year-old boys were arrested and charged with misdemeanors for allowing their friend, Jane Modlesky, to drive drunk before a July car accident that killed her, according to a story on NBC Connecticut: Teens Arrested for Letting Friend Drive Drunk in Fatal Crash.

The young men – one was driving and the other a passenger before exiting the car and watching Modlesky drive off –  were charged separately. One was charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree, violation of passenger restrictions and operating a motor vehicle between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.. The other was charged with violation of passenger restrictions and operating a motor vehicle between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m, according to published reports.

Both are due in court at the end of December.

Modlesky drove her car into a tree and was killed.  Police determined her blood alcohol content was 0.27.

This is a very unusual situation.  In Michigan, the case law has developed that there is very little legal duty placed on others for the intentional or criminal act of others. But does this Connecticut drunk driving wrongful death case signal a change in how law enforcement might aggressively pursue drunk driving cases in other states?

It’s a very sad but very interesting case, and there are strong views on both sides of the issue.  Many lawyers and legal experts say the Glastonbury police are overreaching, as someone cannot (as in Michigan) be held accountable for another person’s negligent or criminal actions. But many others, including many safety advocates, say that such a penalty would be an effective way to deter others from drinking and driving car accidents.

I just read about this case yesterday. And now our attorneys would like to hear from you:

Should a person have a legal duty to prevent someone else from drunk driving?

And would it be right to make someone who allows another to drive drunk an accomplice to the crime?

Let us know what you think on our Michigan Auto Law Facebook page, or by making a comment to this blog below.

Remember, December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Month, so this is a timely debate to have now, because car accident deaths due to drinking and driving are much higher this time of year and around the holidays.

Whatever your opinion on this tragic death, the message for all of us should be clear: please, don’t ruin your holidays by getting behind the wheel if you’re intoxicated. And if you see a friend is drunk or on drugs, take the keys away if it’s safe for you to do so.

Our sincerest  condolences to the family of Jane Modlesky.

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