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Drunk driver has charges reduced after cause of death changed

Losing a loved one in a tragic and, yet, preventable accident may be one of the hardest things to accept in life. However, if a drunk driver who caused a fatal accident will no longer be held criminally responsible for the wreck, then it may only compound the helpless feeling that family members endure. This scenario recently played out here in Ohio.

The driver had just recently been suspected of driving on his suspended license the evening before he was to appear in court for sentencing. The accident for which he had been arrested, which claimed the life of a woman, had occurred in 2014. The victim had been returning home after an evening out for dinner. The man, who had allegedly been driving under the influence, smashed into the woman's car.

After the accident, the medical examiner listed the accident injuries as the cause of the woman's death. However, in December of last year, the county coroner changed the cause of death to cancer. This change meant that the driver would no longer face charges relating to the victim's death -- only to the drunk driving charge. Since the man had already spent time incarcerated, he may only receive a short sentence without the charges connected to the fatal wreck.

Because the Ohio coroner changed the death certificate, a local lawmaker now hopes to require that a medical examiner seek judicial approval before making these changes in the future. While this family has been denied criminal justice, they may still seek to pursue a wrongful death case against this purported drunk driver. A civil case does not require the same level of evidence, and a favorable ruling could provide the family with financial compensation while also providing a measure of closure for the survivors.

Source: abc6onyourside.com, "Repeated drunk driver with suspended license caught behind the wheel", Terri Sullivan, March 20, 2017

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