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People v. Cabrera

Court of Appeals of New York
887 N.E.2d 1132 (2008)


A group of teenagers took two vehicles to drive to a local lake. Seventeen-year-old Brett Cabrera (defendant) drove one of the vehicles. Cabrera had only a graduated driver’s license that (1) allowed no more than two passengers under the age of 21 who were not family members and (2) required Cabrera to ensure that all passengers wore seatbelts. However, Cabrera’s vehicle contained four non-family-member passengers, all under the age of 21, and none of the passengers wore seatbelts. While navigating the curvy mountain road leading to the lake, Cabrera was speeding and lost control of the vehicle, resulting in the vehicle going off the road and down an embankment. Three passengers died, and the other was critically injured. The surviving passenger said that Cabrera was not distracted while driving and that the first time the passenger noticed any problem was when the back of the vehicle started to swerve as Cabrera lost control. A crime-scene analyst determined that Cabrera was going approximately 70 miles per hour when he entered the curve. The speed limit for the curve was 40 miles per hour. Police officers noted that the curve had been the scene of multiple prior incidents. Cabrera was convicted, among other charges, of (1) three counts of criminally negligent homicide under Penal Law § 125.10 and (2) one count of third-degree assault under Penal Law § 120.00(3). The appellate court affirmed the convictions. Cabrera appealed on the grounds that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support criminal negligence, or (2) alternatively, the trial judge erred in declining a jury instruction stating that excessive speed or violations of junior licenses were insufficient, alone, to show criminal negligence.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Read, J.)

Dissent (Graffeo, J.)

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