It happens in the legal system all the time (trust me, I’m a Morgantown criminal defense lawyer): Charges look good on paper, but not so much when one considers the totality of evidence and circumstance. That’s part of what criminal defense lawyers like me do: We negotiate with prosecutors to make sure that everything that should be taken into consideration when dealing with criminal charges or traffic citations is taken into consideration, and, conversely, that the things that shouldn’t be taken into consideration aren’t. Need an example? Because I’ve got one. According to local media reports, a female student at West Virginia University was cited for jaywalking recently after police said she ran across a Morgantown street… and was struck by a driver later charged with driving under the influence.
News reports indicate the driver was going a solid 25 mph when the girl was struck, the force causing her body to roll up over the windshield. I get it: It can absolutely be argued that the girl put herself in harm’s way when she reportedly ran down a hill and across a throughway that lacked a cross-walk. But here’s the thing: The fact that the driver who struck her was allegedly DUI when the crash happened, what does the jaywalking charge help? It seems crass at best considering that the young woman struck suffered multiple injuries. She certainly learned her lesson about safely crossing the street through this experience, and, as a student quoted in the WVU student newspaper put it best, “Everyone jaywalks. The fact that she’s being charged with jaywalking shows a misunderstanding of prevention.”
I agree. But my point here isn’t to place blame or point fingers. I always try to look to what can be learned or what can be changed to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future. Is the answer more DUI prevention? More cross-walks? Better signage for pedestrians and drivers alike? It’s up to WVU to decide. Because for young women like the one who was struck, there is more to deal with than the traffic ticket itself. It’s fine, it’s the time off to fight the ticket, and for some, it means having to deal with insurance companies and consequences.