Cecil County Man Found Guilty of DWI Death of Friend in 2010 DWI Car Crash

It took jurors just two hours to find a 61-year-old Elkton, MD, motorist guilty in the drunken driving death of his best friend during a traffic accident in 2010. The defendant was charged by authorities with negligent homicide by motor vehicle following the November 2010 crash that sent 66-year-old Kenneth Hampson to the hospital with fatal injuries; the victim died just hours later following the deadly alcohol-related collision.

As a Maryland personal injury attorney, my job and that of my staff of qualified legal professionals is to represent the victims of car, truck and motorcycle road accidents. Whether one is a driver, passenger or bystander, being hurt as a result of another person’s negligent actions can be grounds for a personal injury legal suit. Relatively minor injuries, such as cuts, bruises and lacerations, can be one thing, but serious bodily injury like compound fractures, internal organ damage, spinal cord injury or closed-head trauma can cause serious medical problems, not to mention life-threatening complications going forward.

The case described above is a good example of how a serious or fatal traffic wreck can happen just feet from one’s own home. It also shows that drinking and driving is not only foolhardy, but can be downright deadly, not only for the driver himself, but for the occupants of his vehicle as well. In this instance, the victim was riding with the defendant as a passenger in his car when the traffic collision occurred.

Based on news reports, Paul E. Knettler and his friend had both been drinking at another individual’s home and were on their way back to Knettler’s house when the crash took place. Police reports indicate that Knettler was drunk at the time of the collision as he attempted to turn left into his driveway off of Telegraph Rd. in Elkton. As the defendant’s Mercedes was crossing the opposing lane of the roadway it was struck by a Volvo S80 heading west, T-boning the passenger side of the Mercedes critically injuring Mr. Hampson.

Emergency crews arriving on the scene found Knettler, Hampson and the driver of the Volvo, 52-year-old Elise Nelson in varying states of medical distress. Knettler sustained a concussion, rib fractures and bruised kidneys, all non-life-threatening. Nelson, too, had recoverable injuries, unlike Hampson who later died from apparently serious medical complications.

Court records showed that the two men were drinking 80-proof rum and scotch, which witnesses apparently stated Knettler gulped down after taking a few sips; all this prior to hitting the road for home. The defendant himself said that he drank 4-6oz of liquor over the course of 45mins while he and Hampson smoked cigars with their host.

Prior to the crash, Knettler testified that he never saw the Volvo coming when he decided to turn left. The prosecutor in the case argued to the court that it was Knettler’s drunkenness that interfered with his ability to notice the oncoming vehicle prior to the deadly accident.

In the end, it was shown that Knettler’s blood-alcohol concentration was 0.13 percent, which is 50-percent more than the state’s legal limit. The jury apparently agreed with the prosecution’s evidence, but only found the defendant guilty of negligent vehicular homicide, but not negligent manslaughter by motor vehicle. The latter of these carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.

The jury reportedly also found the defendant guilty of reckless endangerment, but that conviction was apparently stricken by the court due to a technicality discovered after the verdicts were handed down.

Elkton-area man guilty of negligent vehicular homicide, CecilDaily.com, April 19, 2012

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