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People v. Garner

Supreme Court of Colorado
781 P.2d 87 (1989)


Facts

Garner (defendant) was driving when a group of children was preparing to cross the street in front of his truck. All of the children stopped, except for Lisa Uhrenic, who continued to cross the street. Garner swerved, attempting to avoid the child, but the front, right side of the truck hit and killed her. Garner was charged with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. The vehicular-homicide statute, § 18-3-106(1)(b)(I), 8B C.R.S. (1986), provides that a person commits vehicular homicide if he “operates or drives a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug or intoxicant and such conduct is the proximate cause of the death of another.” Vehicular homicide is designated as a strict liability crime. At a preliminary hearing, evidence established that Garner was intoxicated and that he was driving about eight miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour. An officer testified that had Garner been travelling at the speed limit, his truck would have stopped far sooner after striking Lisa. However, the officer stated that the accident likely would still have occurred, though it was not clear whether Lisa would have died. Another officer testified that he believed the “proximate cause” of the accident was Lisa’s running and crossing in front of the truck, not Garner’s conduct. Other witnesses stated that Garner was not driving erratically. The trial court dismissed the vehicular-homicide charge on the basis of insufficient probable cause, because Garner’s driving speed, not his intoxication, proximately caused Lisa’s death. The state appealed, arguing that the court incorrectly interpreted the phrase “proximate cause” too narrowly, requiring proof that intoxication was the proximate cause of death, not Garner’s conduct of drunk driving.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Mullarkey, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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