For First Time Ever, Cyclist Found Guilty of Felony Vehicular Manslaughter
In what is likely a first in the U.S., a California man has pled guilty to committing felony vehicular manslaughter while riding a bicycle. The New York Times explains that not only is the situation rare, it may be entirely novel:
Though no agency tracks national data on the severity of charges in such cases, many cycling advocates and law enforcement officials said this was the first felony charge they had heard of in such a case.
The incident took place on March 29, 2012. Chris Bucchere, a 37-year-old San Francisco resident, plowed through an intersection and into Sutchi Hui, a 71-year-old also of San Francisco. The pedestrian was dead four days later due to the seriousness of his injuries. Bucchere turned himself in and was charged.
The Chicago Tribune notes that "the same month Bucchere hit Hui, a bicyclist pleaded guilty in San Francisco to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for running down a 67-year-old woman who died a month later."
Bucchere was hit with a felony rather than a misdemeanor after witnesses testified that he ran several red lights and a stop sign before colliding with Hui. Because the cyclist was using a GPS device to track his route, authorities were able to determine that Bucchere was traveling 30 mph.
George Gascon, the San Francisco District Attorney, explained the charge:
Mr. Bucchere has been held accountable to a historic level What he did deserved prosecution. This is about sending a clear message about prevention.
[…] Our goal is to send a message to cyclists about safety. Just because you are riding a bicycle doesn't mean all bets are off. All of the rules of the road that apply to everyone else apply to you too.
Nevertheless, Bucchere is facing no prison time for the death of Hui. Instead, he is serving 1000 hours of community service and three years probation. According to the Guardian, "the victim's family did not want to see Bucchere imprisoned and prosecutors did not think a judge would sentence him to jail, so they offered probation and community service in the plea deal."