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State v. Lewis

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 11-08-2012
Case #: S059739
Linder, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Durham, J.; De Muniz, J; Kistler, J.; and Walters, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/S059739.pdf

Criminal Law: Criminal negligence does not require that a defendant’s conduct be seriously blameworthy, rather, it requires that a defendant fail to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk which constitutes a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care under the circumstances.

Defendant appealed a conviction of criminally negligent homicide. Defendant, a commercial truck driver, rear-ended a vehicle driven by the victim, which was stopped at an intersection. The collision launched the vehicle into the path of a logging truck, killing the victim. Witnesses testified that prior to the accident, Defendant had been driving carelessly, and that immediately before the collision he was not watching the road and appeared surprised when he noticed the victim’s truck. On review, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal and finding him guilty because the evidence was insufficient to prove that he acted with the requisite mental state. Also, he argued that ORS 161.085(10) requires "seriously blameworthy" conduct. The Oregon Supreme Court noted that the question of what constitutes a criminally negligent state of mind is heavily fact determinative and found that because Defendant was a professional driver operating a dangerous vehicle, traveling in a hazardous section of wet road, while distracted, he was more than merely negligent. Additionally, requiring "seriously blameworthy" conduct under ORS 161.085(10) would change the elements of "substantial and unjustifiable risk" in the criminal negligence statute. Affirmed.