Posted on October 20th, 2015 at 1:55 pm.
“There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer at Swanson Thomas Coon & Newton
There’s a gap in Oregon law that has outraged citizens and hamstrung prosecutors for many years. It’s a gap that makes it all too common for someone to receive a mere traffic citation when their actions while operating a vehicle lead directly to a serious injury or fatality.
This maddening situation first made major headlines here on BikePortland following our tragic October of 2007 when Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek where killed in traffic collisions. In both cases the person behind the wheel of a large truck turned across a bicycle lane that was already occupied and two people died as a result. Despite those actions, the District Attorney declined to pursue criminal charges in either case.
The problem here isn’t with the DA’s office. The DA is constrained by Oregon law which currently has a yawning gap between the culpability threshold of a traffic ticket and a more serious criminal charge.
“There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.” That’s how noted lawyer Ray Thomas described the problem to us when we published a story about this gap in 2010.