The extent of criminal liability?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Jul 28, 2007.


Does the suspect's liability include the helicopter crash?

  1. Aye

    4 vote(s)
  2. Nay

    16 vote(s)
  3. Can't say

    0 vote(s)
  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    The situation: The police attempt to stop you on suspicion of driving under the influence, and you flee. As the chase takes shape, local news decides to cover it live. Two helicopters weaving and dancing about in the air trying to get shots of the chase collide and crash, killing all four people on board.

    Are you responsible for the choices of these people, who chose to place themselves in danger that you did not create for them?

    The man fleeing from police was later taken into custody. Police Chief Jack Harris suggested he could be charged in connection with the collision.

    "I believe you will want to talk to investigators, but I think he will be held responsible for any of the deaths from this tragedy," Harris told reporters at the scene. He did not elaborate.

    I don't see this as being the same as people being hurt or killed when the police cars in pursuit lose traction and plow into a car at an intersection or mows over pedestrians.

    Condolences, of course, to those who lost friends and family today.

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    Witness: "I kept saying 'Go lower, go lower,' but he didn't."


    Billeaud, Jacques. "4 Dead in Phoenix Chopper Collision"., via Associated Press. July 27, 2007. See
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2007
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  3. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    I agree with the police chief. If the driver of the car had not initiated the whole situation the collision would not have taken place. I do understand your reasoning but the news crews were just doing their jobs as a result of what the DRIVER did. Same as your example of police involved in a chase and accidentally killing someone. No running away, no chase by cops or helicopters.
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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    But the police are obliged to pursue suspected criminals. For the press, it's optional. There are thousands of police actions in response to crimes that they don't cover live. In a country known for cutting into the Olympic Games in order to broadcast soap operas, I'm not sure a local police chase warrants cutting into soap operas. The eye for ratings has as much to do with the crash as anything else.
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  7. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    No doubt - but that's the job the reporters are paid to do. Catch as much news as possible, expecially live news. I'm sure there are those who bemoaned the loss of their precious soaps but I'm sure there were many others who also wanted to see the chase. In fact, chases are the highlights (sure, grossly overdone) of many movies.
  8. draqon Banned Banned

    Are you kidding me? Of course not.

    Its like saying while Bush was watching one of his citizens he got a heart that citizen should be jailed for making a visual image which cause Bush to have a heart attack.
  9. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    Does it, yes. Should it, no.

    If a cop shoots another cop during a situation, the criminal is liable for that. But its easier to hold a criminal liable than a regular guy doing his job, no matter how badly.
  10. John99 Banned Banned

    Death during commission of another crime. Pretty basic, started in England...i think --

    The death, or injury resulting in death, occurred during the
    commission or attempted commission of, or during the
    immediate flight from the commission of another crime....
  11. Is it fair probably not but it does not have to be it is the law it only has to be just. The crimninal can never anticipate the full harm his actions may cause. That does not free him of the liability of them.
  12. Is it fair probably not but it does not have to be it is the law it only has to be just. The crimninal can never anticipate the full harm his actions may cause. That does not free him of the liability of them.
  13. zanket Human Valued Senior Member

    Taken to its logical conclusion, if the suspect in this case is responsible for the helicopter deaths then any crime can result in a homicide charge regardless of the negligence of the other people involved (one or both of the pilots in this case certainly wasn't paying enough attention). That is at the far end of the injustice scale, IMO.
  14. zanket Human Valued Senior Member

    There should be a line somewhere between liable and not, or else you could be facing life in prison someday for jaywalking, even if just some driver saw you jaywalk in their rearview mirror and got distracted and ran into some people. (Of course you never jaywalk!)
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2007
  15. There is a line you have to be in the act of comitting a felony. I will concede that it is getting all to easy for some of the lesser crimes to get rated as a felony. A felony crime is still pretty severe.
  16. zanket Human Valued Senior Member

    The line should not simply be "felony". Otherwise it amounts to having no upper cap on the sentence for any felony. That potentially makes the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony the difference between a few days in jail and a death sentence, all else being equal. The difference could be, say, nothing more than a $1 difference in money stolen.
  17. MrManganese Registered Member

    Wow. Next, people will be held accountable for anything that happens in the air space above them. We can have criminal trials determining whose house a plane was flying over when an engine initially failed. Clearly someone is to blame, and it's certainly not whoever maintains the engine, or orders the chopper to pursue the car! That would just make too much sense!
  18. Zorlac Registered Member

    That's a bad and irrelevant analogy.

    Based on other recent headlines of this topic, they will most likely bring additional manslaughter charges against him.

    There was a case recently where someone was hiding and the policeman chasing him was fatally injured in an auto crash. He was found guilty for manslaughter of that officer.
  19. q0101 Registered Senior Member

    It's stupid shit like this that really makes me ashamed to be a human being. I can't believe that a prosecutor in Phoenix is going to even consider charging him for the deaths of those four people. I'm just glad that I'm not living in the U.S because their justice system really fucked up. Just think about the stupid things that happened this week. First, a child rapist gets to go free because he supposedly doesn't speak english, and now this stupid shit. It's ridiculous. When something bad happens most people have a desire to blame other people and seek revenge. An eye for an eye and the world goes blind. I think most prosecutors in the U.S and the rest of the world are blind when they have to use their logic and common sense.
  20. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    A cop pulls me over to write me a ticket because I am speeding. While the cop is getting out of his car and walking up to mine, he's hit by a careless driver and killed. Am I now responsible for his death? Under this sort of logic, it seems like I would be.

    Or, to make it an even better analogy, suppose a cop pulls me over while two friends of mine happen to be driving by in opposite directions. They crash into each other and die because they were both trying to see what was going on with me and the cop rather than watching the road. Again, by this sort of twisted logic it seems I would be responsible.

    Hey, let's go all-out: A cop pulls me over and writes me a ticket, then gets back in his car and drives off. Five minutes later he's hit by another car and killed. He wouldn't have been in that fatal crash if he hadn't pulled me over to give me the ticket, right? He would have been in some other location, since he never would have stopped to write me the ticket! He died because of my criminal actions!

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  21. draqon Banned Banned

    we get it...we get it.
  22. Enmos Valued Senior Member

    Its not his fault.
  23. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Yes, it sounds twisted. But I promise you, when you're the one charged, there is no other place in the world you'd prefer to answer.

    From experience: facing myriad trouble essentially of my own making, I walked away with no conviction and a $250 bail forfeiture for failing to answer the original charge ... for nine years. When the charge was finally read in court, the gallery actually laughed. Instead of having to play a drawn-out game that I would eventually have won, the state chose to let it go. Additionally, I almost plead out to a charge in exchange for a certain settlement; the judge did not accept that plea, and I had the rare opportunity to see two prosecutors and one defense attorney embarrassed for structuring the deal around the wrong statute. I'm not sure where else in the world that would have happened. From the moment I invoked ex post facto, my attorney was confident that we could win the case, and once the argument was raised in court, the state realized it would have to stand on old recollections and an inaccurate police report. They wanted no part of it. They took their "pound of flesh" that, by comparison, equaled a fraction of an ounce.

    There are parts of the United States where I would not have been so fortunate. I received the full respect of the law, and demand that everyone else get the same. Unfortunately, that means some trials will break down on seemingly insane points such as the child-molester case, but it is also the reason I protest the notion that the suspect in the chopper crash should be held responsible.

    Nothing is ever perfect, but the warped system we call American justice is still capable of upholding the rights of the accused. This is annoying, even enraging, when an accused rapist or murderer goes free without trial, but this is part of the price we pay in exchange for our liberty. (As a side note, it is also the reason so many are incensed at the nature of the "War on Terror" and the demands it places upon American justice.)

    Consider the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999. It went down in Congress because, at the end of the day, it left open the idea that one could be prosecuted for aiding and abetting methamphetamine use by distributing information advising how to preserve the life of someone suffering a drug overdose. Had that become law, it would have been eviscerated in the courts, and rightly so, though people would have screamed and howled and generally pitched a fit about "judicial activism".

    More real and relevant than a dead bill is our "War on Terror". Juxtapose two ideas, and I hope it should be clear. First is the recent Executive Order entitling the government to seize without due process the property of anyone believed to be interfering with the American operation in Iraq. Secondly, consider that Bush's first Secretary of Education once described teachers as terrorists. Imagine a teacher seeing his or her home confiscated for teaching history instead of propaganda.

    Due process under the Constitution is the only thing that would save that teacher. Were you an American citizen, would you accept the notion that your home should be confiscated because you went down to the Federal Building and carried a picket against the war in Iraq? The difficult aspect of this, of course, is that the same things protecting the accused child molester or murderer are the same things that would protect the teacher and the protester.

    We'll have to see how due process treats the accused vis a vis the helicopter crash.

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