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Driver in fatal Rhode Island auto crash enters plea of not guilty

When Rhode Island residents hear that someone was driving under the influence, it is only natural to assume he or she had consumed too much alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a car. Often, that assumption may be correct. However, a person can be driving under the influence of drugs -- either illegal or prescription. It is believed that a driver involved in a fatal auto crash on Nov. 23 of last year was not only under the influence of alcohol at the time but possibly drugs as well.

On the day of the crash, the woman was driving in South Kingstown along Route 1. She lost control of the vehicle, and it slammed into a utility pole. Her passenger, a 26-year-old man, was ejected from the vehicle. He survived long enough to be taken to an area hospital, but later succumbed to the injuries he suffered in the crash. Police confiscated three different controlled substances found on the woman's person at the scene.

She was indicted on March 24 for several offenses related to the crash and the death of her passenger, including for the possession of the controlled substances. At a recent hearing, she entered a plea of not guilty to the charges. Even so, the judge ordered her to attend counseling for substance abuse, and she is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle. Her next court date is currently scheduled for May 27.

As the family of the victim adjusts to life without their loved one, they retain the right to file a wrongful death claim against the driver. They do not have to wait for the conclusion of the criminal proceedings in order to seek damages recognized under Rhode Island law. However, if prosecutors secure a conviction on the criminal charges related to their loved one's death in the auto crash, that conviction may be offered as evidence of the woman's negligence in civil court.

Source: wpri.com, "Woman pleads not guilty in fatal DUI crash", Chris Raia, April 14, 2014

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