Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Criminal Practice – Involuntary Manslaughter – Speed Estimate – Other Evidence

Criminal Practice – Involuntary Manslaughter – Speed Estimate – Other Evidence

As a result of a one-car accident, the defendant-driver’s passenger was killed. At trial, defendant objected to the admission of the investigating officer’s accident report, which included an estimate of defendant’s speed. However, defendant never expressly objected on the basis of a lack of foundation as a result of the officer not being qualified as an expert. Consequently, we review for plain error defendant’s argument that the officer’s non-expert opinion that defendant was traveling 70 mph should not have been admitted into evidence.

Defendant cannot show plain error in the admission of the officer’s speed estimate because his guilt was shown by other evidence: the area a witness described as where defendant passed her was a no-passing zone; defendant’s car had passed her and “quickly sped up”; the roadway was wet at the time of the accident; at least two tires on defendant’s car were slick with virtually no tread and were unsafe for the road; at least one of defendant’s tires appeared to have tread below the legal limit; defendant’s car was heavily damaged as a result of the accident; and the force of the impact was so great that the victim was expelled from the vehicle.

We find no reversible error in defendant’s conviction for involuntary manslaughter.


(Hampson, J.) In context, it is clear defendant was objecting to the contents of the accident report because the investigating officer was a lay witness and not, for example, an accident reconstruction expert, and was not qualified to offer opinions— including the estimate of speed—regarding the accident not rationally based on his own perception of the accident.

Nevertheless, the evidence is not such that exclusion of the evidence of the officer’s estimate of speed creates a reasonable possibility of the jury returning a different verdict. Indeed, defendant does not challenge his separate conviction upon the jury verdict finding him guilty of reckless driving arising from substantially the same jury instructions.

State v. Edwards (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-100-23, 9 pp.) (Chris Dillon, J.) (Toby Hampson, J., concurring) Appealed from McDowell County Superior Court (Thomas Davis, J.) Jeremy Lindsley for the state; Anne Gomez for defendant. North Carolina Court of Appeals (unpublished)


Top Legal News

See All Top Legal News


See All Commentary