State v. Devine

In State v. Devine, 168 Vt. 566, 719 A.2d 861 (1998), the defendant drove his car across the double yellow center line and collided with the vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, killing the driver. The evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the State showed that: (1) the defendant had had little opportunity for sleep during the several days before the accident; (2) he had been consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana during this period; (3) he had had trouble staying awake on the day of the accident and had fallen asleep in his car earlier in the day; (4) the road was dry and it was a clear day with good visibility; (5) the defendant was driving in excess of the speed limit; (6) he drove across the double yellow line across two lanes of oncoming traffic into the victim's car without any attempt to slow down or turn away; (7) after the accident, he did not realize that he had hit another car. See id. at 567, 719 A.2d at 863. Based on this evidence, the Court upheld the conviction, relying on cases involving alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, and driving in excess of the speed limit. The defendant was charged with careless and negligent operation of a vehicle with death resulting and wanted to contest the State's estimate of his speed at impact. He argued that he was unable to do so effectively because the State had destroyed his vehicle before he was charged. The Court concluded that the State's crash analysis data were sufficient to enable him to present his own expert testimony. Devine, 168 Vt. at 568, 719 A.2d at 864. In that case, the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the State, showed that, for several days before the accident, the defendant drank alcohol, smoked marijuana, and got little sleep. On the day of the accident, he had difficulty staying awake and, in fact, shortly before the accident, fell asleep in his car. Further, on the day of the accident, road conditions and visibility were good. Immediately before the accident, the defendant was speeding, crossed the double yellow line and crossed two lanes of oncoming traffic. Without attempting to slow down or move out of the way, the defendant drove straight into another car, killing the driver. Immediately after the accident, the defendant did not realize that his car had struck another vehicle. The Court held that these facts were sufficient to support a finding that the defendant was guilty of grossly negligent operation. See Devine, 168 Vt. at 567, 719 A.2d at 863.