Fatal Accident on I-85 Shows Impact of Vehicular Homicide


May 16, 2011

A man, who was charged last week with driving under the influence of prescription drugs, serious injury by vehicle, and following too closely, just had a new charge added to the list. He is now also being convicted on felony vehicular homicide, which could bring him 15 years in prison.

Paul Beaube Burgess of Alabama was driving south on 1-85 in Georgia after leaving a business meeting in Atlanta when he struck a Nissan Rouge in front of him. The Nissan careened off the road and struck a van that was disabled and parked in the center median of the highway.

The van's owner, a 51 year old Georgia man, was fixing the flat tire on the van when it was struck. The van pinned him up against the concrete barrier. He was taken to the hospital and died the same day due to his injuries. A Georgia State Trooper, who had parked and was helping the man, was also injured.

The new charge was added to Burgess's list of charges due to the fact that the 51-year-old injured man died. Burgess's lawyer has conceded that Burgess takes the prescription drug, Adderall, for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but contends that Burgess was not under the influence of the drug at the time of the accident. It is still unclear whether Burgess was under the influence of drugs or nodded off because he was fatigued.

Homicide by Vehicle in Georgia

Also known as "homicide by vehicle", vehicular homicide is a criminal offense which involves a person unlawfully killing another person while driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle in violation of one or more traffic laws. The driver does not have to have had any malice or intent to kill to be convicted of this crime.

First degree homicide by vehicle, which is a felony, can be charged when:

  • A person was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • A person was fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer
  • A person caused an accident and than fled the scene
  • A person was driving recklessly or was driving without a license

If this is a person's first offense, the driver will be sentenced to no less than three and no more than fifteen years in prison. Sometimes the judge will allow that some or the entire sentence be served on probation. The person’s driver's license will also be suspended for three years and no restricted license is issued.

If the person is a habitual offender and does not hold a reinstated license, then the penalty increases to five to twenty years in prison with a minimum and at least one-year of the sentence may not be probated. A three-year suspension of one’s driver's license is mandated as well.

There is also second degree homicide by vehicle, which is a misdemeanor in the state of Georgia. Any other deaths that are caused by violation of traffic laws would be included under this charge. Punishment can be up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $1000 or both. The driver gets his license suspended for 1 year. They then have to complete a defensive driving course and pay a fee before getting their regular license back.

If you or someone you love is involved in major car wreck like the one above, it is important that you seek legal advice so that you preserve your rights. It is difficult to think of such issues when mourning the loss of a loved one, but waiting to seek advice can mean the loss of critical evidence or expiration of the time limit within which a claim must be brought.

Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, has been helping motor vehicle accident victims throughout the state of Georgia for over 27 years. Call the compassionate attorneys at Montlick & Associates today to see how we can help. Our Georgia fatal car accident attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are in Georgia, we are just a phone call away and we will even come to you.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.