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HIT AND RUN DRIVER FACES FELONY CHARGES

On Monday night, a red Acura, allegedly driven by Cody Rhoden, attempted to pass an SUV limousine carrying five members of the Randle family and the limo driver, Mark Anthony Gay on I-85 near Indian Springs Road.

As the Acura approached the SUV, it entered the left-hand emergency lane.The SUV was traveling in the HOV lane.The Acura attempted to improperly pass on the left.The Acura clipped the SUV as the emergency lane narrowed with the concrete median wall.

As the Acura cut off the SUV when it entered the HOV lane, it then struck two cars in the lane ahead. Immediately after, the SUV slammed into the back of the struck vehicles, causing the SUV to flip.The SUV rolled over six times before coming to rest roof-side down.

The Acura left the scene with a dislodged bumper.It was later abandoned at a nearby inn. The driver of the abandoned Acura was apparently Cody Rhoden.Gwinnett County Police recovered the vehicle after a 911 call.

Three members of the Randle family were killed as was also the limo driver.Father and grandfather, Demetrius Randle remains in critical condition.His wife sustained non-critical injuries. Two vehicle occupants in the other vehicles were also injured.

Late Tuesday night, Cody Rhoden turned himself into Gwinnett County Police.He will be arraigned tomorrow morning on four counts of vehicular homicide and one count of felony hit and run.

Although Rhoden, through his attorney, denies liability for the accident and maintains he did not know he caused an accident, witnesses report the Acura was traveling at a rate of speed in excess of 100 mph and passed on the left through an emergency lane.

Vehicular homicide is governed by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-393.This charge involves the unlawful killing of another with the use of a vehicle.The charge does not require either malice aforethought or intent to kill. A person may be charged with first degree homicide by vehicle when he or she drives recklessly or fails to stop after a collision.Both of which seem to apply in this case.The sentence for a conviction of vehicular homicide is three to fifteen years in prison.The Parole Board usually requires inmates to serve ninety percent of a sentence for charges of this nature.

An interesting loophole currently exists in the hit and run statute.This loophole provides that if the victim dies at the scene, then the violation is a misdemeanor under the theory that the failure to render aid would be irrelevant.However, if a hit and run victim dies after the initial accident, then the driver faces a felony charge of homicide by vehicle.

Senator Johnny Grant, R- Milledgeville, has introduced Senate Bill 529 in the Georgia Legislature this session to correct this loophole.Under this bill, any driver who kills another and does not stop to render aid may be charged with first-degree vehicular homicide.The measure has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

From the facts of this accident, it is not clear when and how the victims died.However, the Gwinnett District Attorneys Office has proceeded with four counts of first degree vehicular homicide.

For this family, a senseless tragedy should have been avoided.If in fact, Rhoden was driving nearly forty miles per hour in excess of the speed limit, improperly drove in the emergency lane, improperly passed on the left, and clipped the SUV, then he caused a horrific accident through reckless behavior.Leaving the scene of the accident just magnifies the terrible choices he made that night.

If you have any questions about the law related to vehicular homicide or how to be compensated for injuries related to the reckless driving of others, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.