Criminal Law, Pages 163–166

State v. Olsen

Supreme Court of South Dakota, 1990

Facts:

Defendant was driving his tractor down the road and pulled over to left people pass before he made a left turn. When he made the turn, he did not see an oncoming vehicle which collided with defendant's tractor, and the driver was killed instantly. Defendant ran from the scene yelling "I didn't see it" and went into shock.

Procedural History:

Magistrate court dismissed the charge of manslaughter in the second degree.

Issue:

Was defendant acting recklessly or negligently?

Rule:

Recklessness is a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of a substantial risk one is actually aware of.

Reasoning:

Manslaughter requires recklessness. One cannot disregard a risk if he is unaware of it however. This is the difference between recklessness and negligence: the reckless actor is aware of a risk and disregards it; the negligent actor is not aware but should be.

Here, nothing suggests that defendant knew that he was creating risk. Failing to yield right-of-way is not evidence of recklessness when one does not know of the presence of one to yield to.

Holding:

No, defendant was not acting recklessly. Affirmed.


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