In criminal jurisprudence, the causation element of an offense is generally comprised of two components: factual cause and proximate cause. If the result would not have occurred absent the defendant's conduct, then factual causation exists. Proximate causation is a "legal colloquialism." It is a legal construct designed to prevent criminal liability from attaching when the result of the defendant's conduct is viewed as too remote or unnatural.
There was no dispute over the fact that defendant was intoxicated and that his driving caused an accident with another car. Both the driver and passenger exited that car, which was still on the road, and went to speak with defendant. Subsequently, the driver and passenger of that car approached their vehicle to see if they could turn on the flashers. While the passenger was standing near the vehicle in the road, he was struck and killed by another car. Following jury trial, defendant was convicted. On appeal, the court vacated and reversed the conviction and remanded the cause to the trial court.
Was there sufficient evidence of causation to establish defendant's guilt?
The evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction because the second accident only occurred after the passenger had reached a position of safety and then chose to reenter the roadway.