On February 16, 2012 Victor Moultry, a Charlotte-area man, was involved in a series of accidents that were the result of his excessive speeding and driving while under the influence of cocaine. On that night, the defendant traveled to Huntersville where he rear-ended a truck at over 100 miles per hour, sending it down a ravine, and causing serious injuries to the truck driver, injuries that would ultimately kill the driver.What is especially important about this case was that the defendant had, earlier that night, been involved in a crash on W.T. Harris Boulevard in Charlotte, which occurred when he sped down the wrong lane into incoming traffic. After being arrested, Moultry was charged with second-degree murder, felony possession of cocaine, and misdemeanor hit and run.
Under North Carolina criminal law, it is illegal for any person to drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, alcohol or other drugs. If a person has a blood alcohol level of at least .08, that is conclusive proof that a person was driving under the influence. However, if a person is suspected of driving while taking drugs, the police and a prosecutor will have to establish that the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle was impaired, regardless of the level of drugs in a person’s blood. This means that if a driver is driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they can be convicted of driving under the influence even if their blood alcohol level was under .08, if it can be shown that their ability to drive was substantially impaired.
Normally driving while impaired, if a death results from a crash, constitutes involuntary manslaughter and felony death by vehicle (a more serious charge that is the only one the defendant is allowed to be charged with), but usually does not constitute second-degree murder. This is because those guilty of second-degree murder have to be found to have acted with malice, a heightened state of mind in which the defendant knew or should have known that his actions would end with serious harm to another person. However, malice in a vehicular homicide case can be shown by demonstrating that the defendant intended to drive in a reckless manner, which would show his knowledge that injury or death would likely result. In this case, the defendant had already been in one accident that night and continued driving despite causing an earlier crash, a fact that would fulfill the malice requirement necessary to prosecute him for second-degree murder instead of felony death by vehicle. As a result of his conviction, the judge sentenced the defendant to between 17 and almost 22 years in prison.