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posted by LaminatorX on Wednesday September 03 2014, @01:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the unsafe-at-any-speed dept.

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who fatally struck cyclist Milton Olin Jr. while he was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer. “Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his (Mobile Digital Computer),” according to the declination letter prepared by the Justice System Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office and released Wednesday. “He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed. Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.”

To establish the crime of vehicular manslaughter, prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wood was criminally negligent. While Wood was texting shortly before the collision, there was no evidence he was texting or doing anything else that would have distracted him at the time of the collision. Olin’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the Sheriff’s Department and the deputy, alleging driver negligence and seeking to obtain more information about the incident. “Just because the law allows someone to do something while driving doesn’t mean they are allowed to do something unsafely while driving,” says Eric Bruins. “Hitting someone from behind is very clear evidence that whatever was going on in that car was not safe and should have been considered negligent.”

Update: A day after prosecutors declined to file charges against a distracted sheriff’s deputy who fatally struck a cyclist in Calabasas in December, an official with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said it is launching its own administrative probe into the deputy’s behavior.

 
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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by WillAdams on Wednesday September 03 2014, @01:22PM

    by WillAdams (1424) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @01:22PM (#88874)

    Where's that written down? And if it is, who wrote it? They're liable.

    If that's not the written job description, then the deputy is liable.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by cl0secall on Wednesday September 03 2014, @02:32PM

    by cl0secall (4658) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @02:32PM (#88913) Homepage

    It's not that it's in his job description. It's that it is a specific exception in the law. See California Vehicle Code 23123.5 [ca.gov], specifically subsection (e).

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by LoRdTAW on Wednesday September 03 2014, @03:07PM

    by LoRdTAW (3755) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @03:07PM (#88928) Journal

    (e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.

    This is a broad statement that can cover everything from a 2-way radio to a cell phone or wireless email. In every other section it explicitly states the type of communications prohibited. Lets have a look at section a:

    (a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text–based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voiceoperated [sic] and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.

    Section 'a' explicitly states text-based messaging including email. Sections b-d describe the limitations and fines. Then e tosses in a broad use case for all wireless communications for emergency services.

  • (Score: 1) by WillAdams on Wednesday September 03 2014, @03:04PM

    by WillAdams (1424) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @03:04PM (#88927)

    How can it be ``in the course and scope of his duties'' to answer a non-urgent, non-emergency request by typing while driving?

    Does the department specifically not have any guidelines suggesting that one pull over to type? If not, why not?

  • (Score: 1) by cl0secall on Wednesday September 03 2014, @03:38PM

    by cl0secall (4658) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @03:38PM (#88945) Homepage

    They cover this in the second link. There is a whole spiel about preventing the waste of PD resources or some other similar platitude. The report then proceeds to say that they don't have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The sad thing is this is probably correct and a jury would probably acquit. After all, they acquitted the Fullerton cops. Warms the heart and makes me feel real safe around cops. *puke*

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by nitehawk214 on Wednesday September 03 2014, @01:48PM

    by nitehawk214 (1304) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @01:48PM (#88894)

    Failing that they can use the "traffic laws do not apply to police" law.

    --
    "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
  • (Score: 4, Informative) by drussell on Wednesday September 03 2014, @04:03PM

    by drussell (2678) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @04:03PM (#88958) Journal

    Failing that they can use the "traffic laws do not apply to police" law.

    That's supposed to be only while safe to do so.
    That very important part seems to be missing in this case!

    Here in Alberta, the Traffix Safety Act is quite specific (this particular quote is for ambulances as I had read it recently in the guide and knew where it was but I believe fire and police have the same wording):

    - The Traffic Safety Act, states that a siren on an emergency vehicle shall be operated only when the vehicle is being used in response to an emergency, an emergency call or an alarm.
    - When operating an emergency vehicle, the law states:

    - (1) Where, considering the circumstances, it is reasonable and safe to do so, a person driving an emergency vehicle may while the vehicle’s siren is operating do one or more of the following:

    · (a) drive the vehicle in excess of the speed limit;
    · (b) proceed past a traffic control signal indicating stop or a stop sign without stopping;
    · (c) contravene any provision that is prescribed by the Act, this or other regulations or a municipal bylaw governing the use of the highways.

    · (2) An emergency vehicle, while its siren is operating, has the right of way over all other vehicles.

    - Use of the red flashing lights alone, does not exempt the driver from the Traffic Safety Act.
    - The Traffic Safety Act authorizes emergency medical operators to disregard some traffic laws under limited circumstances. Failure to meet the requirements of these circumstances means that the driver may be subject to Civil and Criminal penalties in the event of a collision.
    - Even during the most serious emergency, an emergency medical operator must consider the safety of others.
    - When parking an emergency vehicle, the law states:

    - Where, considering the circumstances, it is reasonable and safe, an emergency vehicle may, while its flashing lights are operating, be parked contrary to any provision that is prescribed by the Act, this or other regulations or a municipal bylaw governing the parking of motor vehicles.