Motorist Found Criminally Negligent for Stopping to Save Ducks

September 12th, 2014 by

good-intentions-and-criminal-negligenceDavid Master, Summer Law Student

Have you ever been driving and stopped the car because a family of ducks was trying to cross the road? What if you saw a family of ducklings crossing the highway without a mother? What would you do?

A Quebec woman, Emma Czornobaj, encountered this exact situation. On June 27, 2010, the professed animal lover stopped her vehicle in the left lane of a Montreal-area highway, got out of her car and planned to capture 30 ducklings and take them home because their mother was not in sight.

Unfortunately, what seemed to be a genuine act of kindness had a tragic result, but not for the ducklings.

André Roy was driving a motorcycle with his daughter Jesse and slammed into the back of Emma’s vehicle. A provincial police officer testified that André was driving at a speed of 113 km/h to 129 km/h when he tried to brake and at a speed of 105 km/h to 121 km/h when he slammed into the back of Emma’s vehicle. André and Jesse both died from the crash.

Emma was convicted of criminal negligence causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and dangerous driving, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years behind bars. Sentencing is scheduled for August 8, 2014.

It is an extremely unfortunate situation for all parties involved. Defence lawyer, Marc Labelle remarked that this should send the message to motorists “…we do not stop on the highway for animals. It’s not worth it.”

The full decision has not been released yet and it is unclear if contributory negligence will play a factor in sentencing. The lingering question that could provide grounds for statutory amendment is should someone with no criminal intent, no alcohol consumption and no speeding be at risk of being found “criminally negligent” which could result in life in jail?

Some other notable cases of good intentions gone wrong include: an Australian motorcyclist stopping to help a koala get to safety being hit by a car and suffering a broken leg, a Florida man being charged with felony grand theft for giving discounts to customers he thought were in need and a man dropping one thousand one dollar bills in the crowded Mall of America to “jump start his karma” being charged with disorderly conduct

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