A Georgia woman who refused to stop her vehicle for police and subsequently got into a car crash will likely face charges after the death of the fetus that she was carrying.
According to an article from ABC News, Jessica Bruce was fleeing police in her car when she hit another vehicle, spun around into oncoming traffic, and then got hit by another vehicle. The accident killed the fetus that she was carrying, according to police.
The initial traffic stop was for speeding. Investigators said that Bruce was traveling about 85 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone outside of Atlanta, in the suburbs. Bruce had to be cut out of the wreckage before she could be taken to the hospital. Another person involved in the crash was also taken to the hospital.
An autopsy was performed on the fetus, which authorities are awaiting the results on. That autopsy will theoretically determine if the fetus’ death was the result of the accident.
A toxicology test was also given to Bruce. Police believe that Bruce was drunk at the time of the incident, though the result of the tests will determine how prosecutors will proceed.
Douglas County District Attorney David McDade told ABC that the early information suggests that Bruce will likely face “feticide by vehicle” charges. “The preliminary investigation leads us to believe she was under the influence of alcohol,” he said. “She was fleeing police at a high rate of speed and driving dangerously.”
The vehicular feticide charge carries a 15-year prison sentence, according to ABC News.
According to McDade, the age of the child is not relevant under Georgia law, as long as it was alive just before the incident. “There will almost certainly be criminal responsibility,” he said.
Bruce won’t be charged until she leaves the hospital, according to McDade.
Twenty-four states have the “fetus as victim” written into laws that relate to DUI cases. Some states have laws that vary based on the age of the fetus. Some states have penalties starting at 7–12 weeks, while five states have laws saying that a 16-18-week-old fetus can get someone a full-blown murder charge. Three other states call 28 weeks that cut-off point.
We have heard before about how a DUI arrest leads to a suspect getting in more hot water about additional crimes. But this story features a suspect who led police directly into the heart of another of his allegedly illegal associations.
In Gwinnett County, Georgia, one suspected crime led to discovery of another, as a DUI suspect led police on a wild chase to a house serving as the headquarters for a marijuana growing operation.
According to authorities, Charles Byrd was fleeing police after they tried to stop his green Chrysler Sebring when they saw that the driver had broken several traffic laws.
Byrd did not pull over, though. Instead, he jumped out of his car towards a home off of the highway. He ran into the house and locked the door. Police called in back-up to address the situation, and they surrounded the house.
Byrd soon came out of the house, but the end to the stand-off wasn’t the end of the case. Police smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the house when Byrd came out, and he was arrested.
As they were dealing with the arrest of Byrd, police found another occupant in the house, Timothy Donahue, hiding from them.
Police obtained a search warrant to investigate the home, and when they did so they found 69 marijuana plants in different stages of the growth process. They also found almost 1,500 grams of already processed marijuana and equipment used to cultivate marijuana.
All told, the marijuana that was confiscated had a monetary value of more than $327,000.
Charles Byrd, who had led police to the pot hideout while evading the consequences of a different offense, was charged with DUI and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell. He was also charged with driving with an expired tag, driving without headlights after dark, making an improper turn and driving without a driver’s license with him.
Donahue also faces charges surrounding the intent to distribute marijuana. He had an outstanding warrant in another county as well.
Both of the men are being held at the county’s detention center as police continue to investigate the marijuana growing operation.
The legal battles over ignition interlock law has made it to the state of Georgia, as lawmakers debate a measure that would require more convicted DUI offenders to use the mechanism on their cars.
According to the Savannah Morning News, the bill, brought by state representative Tom Knox, is waiting to be reviewed by Georgia’s House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving are urging the committee’s chairman, Burke Day, to schedule a hearing. Day has said that he will do so, but that he doesn’t know if he’ll do so in time for the state House to act on it this session.
In particular, the bill would allow judges to order the installation of ignition interlock on an automobile after a person’s first DUI conviction. The option for a judge to do so currently exists only for a person’s second DUI conviction.
According to MADD, Burke Day is “holding up and blocking” a hearing on the bill.
Day, in response, has said that he isn’t against interlock bills, but that he is “simply not going to let just any bill out until I have more facts,” and he emphasized that it is his job as chairman to make sure that bills are well-researched.
Day said that the state’s budget crisis has tied up hearing schedules, making it difficult to hold a public hearing about the proposed bill.
According to MADD representatives, in 2008 Georgia saw 416 drunk driving related deaths. They also said efforts similar to the proposed bill have reduced drunk driving deaths elsewhere by more than 30 percent.
While Day maintained that there were “other sides” to the issues raised by the bill, MADD lobbyist Frank Harris said that he had not heard about any opposition to the proposed bill. Day in turn responded that a public hearing often unearths this sort of opposition.
If the bill should stall this year, it will need a new sponsor next year, because Knox is giving up his spot as state representative in order to run for insurance commissioner. Of the bill, he said “I think it’s a good bill, and a necessary one.”