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Will New York court toss murder convictions for 3 drunk drivers?

Accusing a person of a crime is one thing; but convicting a person of that crime is quite another. A conviction can require evidence, extensive investigations and a courtroom trial. In these situations, a person may want to have the support of a criminal defense attorney who can challenge the evidence, conduct a separate investigation and argue on behalf of a client in the courtroom. Legal help can be important, especially when a conviction comes down to the interpretation of a few words.

Recently, three people in New York worked with defense attorneys to appeal their murder convictions. The appeals are based on the argument that the three people did not meet the requirements of a murder conviction. Whether their attempts will be successful comes down to four words: "depraved indifference to human life."

According to reports, the three people were each convicted of murder in separate cases stemming from situations in which they were intoxicated, driving in the wrong lane and driving too fast. They each caused fatal accidents and were convicted of murder before being sentenced to more than 19 years in prison. 

But defense attorneys are arguing that each of the three drivers was so impaired, that they could not possibly have acted with depraved indifference and should not be convicted of doing so; therefore, the murder convictions should be thrown out. It's not that they did not care about others. it's that they were too impaired to even realize they were a threat to others.

In one case, attorneys argue that there was no way to prove that the man driving in the wrong lane knew he was going the wrong way when he caused the accident. And another driver never braked before causing a collision, which could lead people to believe that either he was suicidal or was completely oblivious to the dangers of the situation. In the third case, the woman was apparently so impaired at the time of the crash that she was irrational.

A ruling is expected next month. 

State and federal laws are not always black and white. They are often complex and can be interpreted in different ways. As these cases illustrate, there can be a number of ways to defend against charges and challenge their accuracy and legitimacy by focusing on the letter of the law and appealing a conviction if the prosecution fails to prove their case. 

Source: The Huffington Post, "Drunk Drivers Argue They Were Too Intoxicated To Realize Threat They Posed," Michael Virtanen, Oct. 8, 2013

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