Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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Driver Acquitted of Striking a Bicyclist

Recently I represented a very nice mature lady. She was leaving her doctor's office where she had had work done on her knee. While leaving the parking lot she came to a sidewalk which crossed over the driveway leaving the parking lot. A bicyclist came across the sidewalk and there was a collision. The bicyclist got up and either sat close by on the curb or picked up his bicycle and moved a distance away. My client remained at the scene for at least 3 min. in her car. She was in pain and could not get out. The bicyclist did not come over to her even though he was ambulatory. Thereafter she left and her intent was to go to a local grocery store and call the accident in. The telephone was not available at the grocery store and she went home. A witness took down her tag and the police found her at her house. She told her story to the police and they were willing to let the case go with her going to a driver improvement program and no charges being filed.

Apparently the bicyclist had a bit of a history. When I ran his name on the criminal database search available in Maryland, he came back with two pages of criminal charges. He was apparently incensed that this lady did not suffer criminal charges. He contacted the officer many times requesting that he issue a citation and the officer denied that request. He pulled rank and went to the officer's Sgt. who also denied the request. He went to the lieutenant who capitulated and the officer wrote citations against my client.

My client was charged with the following:

1. Failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk
2. Failure to stop after an accident

These are somewhat serious charges. They carry jail time and of course points on your driving license.

The case was called for trial and everyone showed up. I told the prosecutor not to drop the charges because I was concerned that the bicyclist would go after this prosecutor going all the way up to John McCarthy, the state's attorney for Montgomery County. At trial the state proved that the victim was riding a bicycle in the crosswalk when he was struck. They also proved that my client remained at least 3 min. and probably more than 5 min. stopped at the scene after the accident.

At the close of the state's case I argued to the judge that a bicyclist is not a pedestrian and that is clearly defined in the Maryland code. A pedestrian is somebody who is "afoot" (is a bicyclist somebody who is "abike"?) The judge threw out that charge immediately. I further argued that the state proved in their case that my client did stop after the accident. Under the statute it requires the driver to stop. It does not say how long the driver needs to stop. Arguably, one second is enough. Clearly at least 3 min. is enough. Again the judge threw out the charge.

Not surprisingly, the bicyclist began haranguing the prosecutor and almost needed to be escorted out of the courthouse by the bailiffs.

All that being said, I do not condone driving away after an accident. My client should have been charged with hit and run and failing to provide proper identification and failing to provide assistance. That would've made the case tougher. For whatever reason, she was not charged with the correct crimes and she is acquitted as she should be. If you have an accident, you should remain at the scene, exchange information, give aid and assistance and just be a decent human being.
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