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Teen Texter In Massachusetts Guilty Of Vehicular Homicide

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A couple of weeks ago, we asked the question, "If you text someone who's driving, can you go to jail if he crashes?"

By and large, you all said that the sender of that text message shouldn't be held liable. The judge in that New Jersey case agreed.

But in Massachusetts, a case came to court with much less gray area. And it should serve as a reminder that America's growing number of anti-texting laws have consequences for those who disobey them.

On February 20, 2011, a car driven by high schooler Aaron Deveau crashed into a vehicle driven by Donald Bowley. Bowley was killed, and his girlfriend was seriously injured. 

Deveau claimed that he was tired from working that day and was distracted by worries about his homework. However, the prosecution produced phone records showing that Deveau was texting moments before the collision.

It took the jury less than four hours of deliberation to find Deveau -- now 18 -- guilty on two counts: vehicular homicide and texting while driving. Judge Stephen Abany sentenced Deveau to two and a half years imprisonment on the former charge and two on the latter, though the sentence was ultimately reduced to one year in jail, three years of probation, the loss of Deveau's driver's license for 15 years, and a monetary sum that has yet to be determined. 

While citations under Massachusetts' anti-texting law are fairly common, this is the first time in the state's history that anyone has been convicted of vehicular homicide while texting. 

Will Deveau's sentence make drivers think twice before texting? Did Abany send a strong message, or will drivers need something else to break them of the habit? Let us know your thoughts via email or in the comments below. 

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Comments (42)
  1. It might make those who are aware of the crime and subsequent sentence think twice, but most will still believe that it will never happen to them.
     
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  2. Part of a case involves intent; you should be able to prove negligence at best.
     
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  3. Negligence is not doing what a prudent person would do. Clearly the driver was negligent. Intent has nothing to do with it. The driver was a selfish idiot and someone died in the process. I can't believe he only got one year.
     
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  4. I don't think that's the case here, otherwise drunk drivers would never be convicted of vehicular homicide
     
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  5. Tell that to the parents that lost their son. I suggest you have good shoes for running. You might become a satistic if you don't.
     
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  6. Let us hope that the MSM publish this widely so that others will know.
    Question, did the pre-trial discovery determine who initiated the call? How much blame would be put on an off-board person who did that, or even the one HE called if s/he knew he was driving? My personal experience is that talking or texting is about as bad.
     
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  7. Hmm. Both cases -- in NJ and MA -- involved texting, not calling. Is that what you meant?
     
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  8. No Richard - I mean to say that talking or texting while driving is bad. I addition, there ought to be a penalty for anyone who initiates a call to someone that they know is driving. Aside from that, any vigorous conversation (argument?) within the vehicle is also a distraction.
     
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  9. Carl, are you saying that when the person driving accepts the call or responds to the text that he/she is only partly responsible? It sounds as if you are saying that we should monitor the cabin of a car to determine the total distraction level to share the responsibility, as well. Are you thinking about video, sound or a combination of above? What agency will police this? Am I missing something? Jim
     
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  10. I thought it was clear that a driver who initiates a wireless message (voice or text) is the sole bad person. However, there is some responsibility on the person who calls the driver if they know that the driver is, in fact, driving. When I get such a call, I ask the caller to wait until I can stop, or better, wait for me to call them back.
    Driving while distracted in congested traffic is always difficult because being aware of your surroundings is important whether driving or flying.
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  11. So Carl, you think it is OK to use your phone while driving? "When I get such a call, I ask the caller to wait until I can stop, or better, wait for me to call them back." Obviously you had to answer it to make such a reply!

    That is the problem with drivers today. They think the rules are for the other guy, and rationalize breaking them with the ridiculous rationaliztion made by you.

    When will you people in cars, restaurants, movie theaters and other public forums understand that you only use the phone serendipitously because you can? We existed many years without having to have a phone glued to our ear. It is really easy to ignore a call and then return it when you have the privacy that has always in the past been expected while phoning!
     
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  12. I agree with you. In my case, the phone's Caller-ID gives me a clue. Then I can ignore the call and put the phone done. At a convenient stop, call back.
    Even listening to talk radio can be distracting depending upon the subject and level of host/visitor agitation. What do you think about that?
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  13. Imagine your being cited for telling the caller to call back...
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  14. Phone in one ear, playing with laptop with other and watching the latest episode of MASH is how I put it personally, this is while driving down the road. I know that some people complain about government interference with personal liberties but I call it self-preservation. I don't want to be the one they injure or kill because they just have to screw around, and most of our judges and politicians are protected from the results of their criminal activities anyway.
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  15. Carl, many cases are difficult to prove when all the information is known. Proving a case using assumptions should be impossible. Penalties resulting from assumptions are improper, but becoming regular practice. That slippery slope violates our Constitution. Assessing penalties, based on guesses, based on assumptions is absolutely ridiculous and totalitarian. "Well, Defendant B phoned Defendant A with full knowledge Defendant A might have been driving a motor vehicle”... draconian measures serve no purpose and will incarcerate non-criminals at a time when housing true criminals is difficult.
     
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  16. Carl, c'mon! Listening to the radio? Clearly you shouldn't be driving at all, especially at night when you can be distracted by reflective traffic signs. I'm not sure how you justify your opinions but those who are that easily distracted don't belong behind the wheel, at ANY time. Again, negligence is the issue, not being on the phone or listening to the radio. One does not assume negligence simply because the phone rings or the radio is on. Duh!!!
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  17. There are more comments in this thread
  18. Well, Carl, you ARE getting older and maybe you shouldn't be driving at all.
     
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  19. I have been involved in motor vehicle safety since 1965. I know as well as anyone that my driving skills have slumped greatly since the days of testing cars on the race track. Soon I expect that the state will pull my license. That is not a cheerful thought.
     
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  20. Perhaps as part of his sentence he should perform some community service talking to other teens about the dangers of texting and driving.
     
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  21. This is probably what it's going to take to change peoples bad habits or what ever ya want to call it.
     
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  22. no one should use a phone/text when in a car no matter what, that way no one can be blamed....but the driver who is using the phone will always be at fault.
     
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  23. Excuses! Excuses! Excuses!!! Most of the drivers who cause the accidents on the roads are INEXPERIENCED reckless, uneducated kids! The parents watch TV while the kids go out all night! They text and drive without a brain in their young stupid heads! They think only of what they want, and care nothing about the the lives of the people they're killing! The laws ARE FAR TOO LENIENT!!! Put these kids in prison like any other criminal and maybe THEN THEY U+ILL GET THE POINT THAT A PHONE AND A CAR ARE NOT PLAYTHINGS!!!!!
     
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  24. I am sure that can depend on where you live. I am a Firefighter in Florida and well over 50% of the accidents we run on are caused by the elderly. Many times these people do no even know what has happened. They drive because they feel they have every right to, despite their failing eyesight and reaction times. They are every bit as dangerous as the "inexperienced, reckless, and uneducated kids" you are referring to. Perhaps more, as atleast the kids have the ability to drive when they choose to pay attention.
     
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  25. A very sad and tough lesson. Some what hypocrtical since now cares are coming with elborate touch screens and sound systems. I saw an ad for an in dash TV Really!! It seems to send a mixed message
     
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  26. HAHA THIS IS ALL LEADING UP TO EVERYONE HAVING A TRACKING DEVICE INSTALLED IN CARS, THEN IT WILL LEAD TO A TRACKING DEVICE IN PHONE (gps), THEN ONE IMPLANTED ON YOUR SKIN

    think about it, how is this different from 50 thousand other distractions one could be doing in a car lets see
    ive seen doing make up, changing a babys diaper, reading the newspaper, smoking, playing psp, playing anything hand held, listening to music and bouncing around in car clearly not paying attention, seen people driving with no shoes and one foot out the window, the list goes on and on

    also, how do they know he was the one sending texts, that would be my defense,

    prove to me and the court i was the one texting....... no one can unless eye witness

    case closed
     
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  27. The make-up application happened to me once several years ago. Nothing happened thankfully, but was going somewhere with a friend and the friend was applying her make-up and totally unnerved me.
     
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  28. Your defense would be weak. Texting has the same premise as emails. It stores the sender and the recipient in a database. Finding out if he texted someone would be extremely easy. All they would need is to review the phone records and it would indicate one way or the other if he was texting. But not only that but it was also show if he read a received text. Even if he deleted the text on his phone it would be stored for a period of time. The only way to prove texting might not have had anything to do with it is if he never sent a text or didn't read the text and even still you can't prove that he did not look at his phone.
     
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  29. Unfortunately, Scott Geller is right but eventually people will learn. My son was killed by a driver on a cell phone. It's not just texting. All cell phone drivers -- even with hands-free devices -- are 4X more likely to crash within five minutes of making or taking a call. Texters are 23X more likely to crash. This sentence is appropriate.
     
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  30. Can you cite the source for the 4x and 23x statistics, please?
     
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  31. I always do my typing in my car, I have an old manual typewriter, plus I do some knitting while I drive too.
     
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  32. TYou must be logged in to post your comment.he punishment should be the same as for drunk driving. Same results = same consequences.
     
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  33. Your car becomes a lethal weapon when you become distracted.
     
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  34. Make texting and talking on a cell phone a primary offense with a good stiff fine, like $250.00 the first time.
     
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  35. EVIDENCE. Cell phone records show texting activity up to the moment of the crash.

    NO EVIDENCE. {the crash occurred} But he wasn't on a cell phone but gazing at a beautiful sexy woman walking on the sidewalk.

    He is guilty in the EVIDENCE and NO EVIDENCE scenario and should go to jail in the NO EVIDENCE scenario. But he wouldnt be convicted in the NO EVIDENCE scenario becuase his attorney(s) wouldnt allow the court to convict him in the NO EVIDENCE scenari.

    It doesnt have nothing to do with intent or premeditation which is present in shootings stabbings etc. and if someone planned to kill someone with a vehicle.

    Sometimes a crime of passion occurrs when a normal person "losses it" and kills someone.
     
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  36. He only got just 1 year in jail for 2 counts of vehicular homicide and driving while texting. Two counts of vehic homicide? I thought this was considered one since only one person was killed and the girlfriend of the deceased was injured. How can that be 2 counts. It would only make sense for it to be 2 counts if the deceased girlfriend died too but she was only injured. Anyways the guy now 18 only got one year in jail, three years of probation, the loss of Deveau's driver's license for 15 years, and a monetary sum that has yet to be determined. Fifteen years of no driver license. Damn that is half your life right there because the guy will be 33 when he is eligible to drive again. He could have been in prison for 15 years instead.
     
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  37. Thomas, it was 2 counts. 1 count was vehicular homicide. 1 count was texting. Not 2 counts of v.h.
     
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  38. The State of Florida is still mulling over a anti texting law, while people in the state are being murdered on the highways by people textin.
     
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  39. IYou must be logged in to post your comment. know I'll get BLASTED for this but Judges are IDIOTS. How about vehicular homicide for eating a Big MAc, or having a screaming child in your car, or arguing with you G/F. ENOUGH! The reason they are called ACCIDENTS is cause you didn't do them ON PURPOSE. Stop all the micro management and start fixing whats REALLY wrong in this country. PEDOPHILES that get out of jail TWO YEARS after raping a five year old girl, STUFF LIKE THAT. People do DUMB stuff ALL THE TIME. RUINING someones life for a stupid mistake in an attempt at vengence if FOOLISH. The nanny state has got to go.Next time your kid takes drugs KILL him so his brother will know better.
     
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  40. when a friend or family member of yours is killed because someone texting while driving swerves into the wrong lane and crashes into them, you may feel differently. These laws are simple and practical. Deaths and car accidents can easily be avoided by not texting while driving. It is not that much of a hassle.
     
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  41. and people are being murdered 15 times more often by SWIMMING POOLS. Police your own family, not mine!
     
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