People v. Abbott

84 A.D.2d 11, 445 N.Y.S.2d 344 (App. Div. 1981)



A "drag race" involves two or more drivers engaged in a contest of speed with the use of their automobiles. When this activity occurs on a public highway there is an inherent danger of increasing the death-dealing potential of the automobile. The significance of this conduct should be apparent to anyone who shares the community's general sense of right and wrong. It necessarily evinces a failure to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk, constituting a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation, and it is sufficient to sustain the conviction for criminally negligent homicide.


Two driver’s were involved in a drag race on a four lane highway. When one of them crossed the double yellow lines, his car collided with an oncoming car resulting in death of the occupants. Both driver’s were jointly indicted and convicted of criminally negligent homicide, reckless driving, and other traffic violations. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division.


Can a participant in a drag race on a public highway be subject to criminal liability when another participant's car is involved in an accident which results in the death of a third person?




The appellate division affirmed the judgments since the evidence was sufficient for the trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant, who was not involved in the accident, while acting with the culpable mental state of criminal negligence, gave assistance or encouragement to defendant who was involved in the accident to engage in conduct dangerous to life. The Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence that defendants had the culpable mental state of criminal negligence.

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