Matthew Diehl has been charged with homicide while DUI, Homicide by Vehicle, Accidents Involving Death or Personal Injury and DUI, after police say he ploughed into Loganville Fire Chief Rodney Miller, who had been directing traffic following an accident on Route 83 in Southern York County just after midnight last Saturday. According to witnesses, Diehl drove away after striking the police chief, and did not stop until halted by the stalled traffic, related to the first accident.
Needless to say, Diehl is in very serious trouble. Homicide while DUI is a second degree felony punishable by up to 10 to 20 years in state prison and a maximum fine of $25,000. This charge carries a three to six year mandatory minimum sentence, however, Diehl’s sentence could be even longer than the mandatory minimum, given his prior record. Diehl has one prior DUI conviction, as well convictions for corruption of minors and indecent assault of a person less than 13 years of age. Diehl is also a registered sex offender pursuant to Megan’s Law. With these prior convictions, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines would permit a judge to impose a guidelines range sentence, which is greater than the mandatory minimum.
A person is not necessarily guilty of homicide by DUI simply because he was driving drunk, gets into an accident and someone was killed. The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drunk driving is the direct cause of the death. For example, if a drunk driver is obeying every traffic law, and a drunk pedestrian suddenly rushes out into traffic and is struck and killed, the driver is not be guilty of homicide while DUI. This is because the pedestrian’s own negligence was the direct cause of his death, and he would have been just as dead had the driver been stone cold sober. The foregoing scenario actually happens more often than you might think, for the simple reason that the peek hours for drunk drivers coincides with the peek hours for drunk pedestrians. Fortunately, most drunk pedestrians hit by cars are merely injured rather than killed.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA, with extensive experience with DUI and DUI-related cases. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/DUI-Defense.shtml