The Washington State Supreme Court has upheld an Appeals court ruling saying that a woman cannot be liable as an accomplice in a driving under the influence (DUI) case as she was a victim in the accident that killed her fiancé and five friends.
The case stems from a horrific accident that occurred in 2001. Teresa Hedlund, who was 28 at the time, held a party at her home where she served alcohol. When the party ended, Hedlund, her fiancé and five other young people all piled into a car with Hedlund’s fiance, Tim Stewart, driving. Hedlund videotaped the group joking and clowning in the car. Stewart drove recklessly and the car plowed into a freeway concrete support post. Hedlund was the only survivor. Stewart’s blood alcohol limit (BAC) was later found to be twice the legal limit at the time of the accident.
Hedlund was convicted in 2003 in Auburn Municipal Court of encouraging drunken driving and providing alcohol to minors as one of two of the underage assengers in the car drank at the party. The Auburn court ruled that she was an accomplice to DUI since she served the alcohol and she also encouraged Stewart’s reckless behavior by videotaping him while he was driving. Hedlund appealed the conviction saying that she could not be convicted of being an accomplice to DUI as she was a victim of herself. The crux of the case was the definition of the word victim. In 2007, the State Court of Appeals overturned the lower court ruling. On Thursday, the State of Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Appeals Court decision, ruling in a 5-4 decision.
“The Legislature has declared, ‘A person is not an accomplice in a crime committed by another person if: (a) He is a victim of that crime,’ ” said Justice Tom Chambers, writing for the majority.
Information for this posting is from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer as reported by Hector Castro
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