The Philadelphia DUI Law Blog

From DUI Homicide to Reckless Endangerment: The Senavitis Story

How does a PA DUI attorney get a charge reduced from a DUI homicide to a lesser charge of reckless endangerment? 

Just as Thomas Senavitis. 

Senavitis became known as the "redneck who killed a senator", after his DUI crash in Gilbert; where state Senator James Rhoades was killed. Senavitis had alcohol in his system at the time of the accident and was charged with vehicular manslaughter. Throughout the ordeal, Senavitis claimed that he was being scapegoated. Indeed, Senavitis, a mechanic and grandfather of three, had the media against him, having been in a crash where a beloved politician was killed. 

But his PA DUI attorney had magic up his sleeve. Thomas Senavitis was acquitted of vehicular homicide. The jury found Senavitis guilty of lesser charges. Instead of being convicted of vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault, Senavitis was found guilty of driving under the influence and reckless endangerment. 

Luckily for Senavitis, his PA DUI attorney convinced the jury that Senavitis was not the sole contributing cause of the crash and of the Senator's death. In fact, his PA DUI attorney claimed Senator Rhoades was in the wrong lane at the time of the crash.

Now, it's quite common for a PA DUI attorney to attempt to get the charges lessened in the event that they can't be dropped altogether. But what is the difference between "vehicular homicide" and "reckless endangerment"?

According to Pennsylvania law, "reckless endangerment" involves reckless engagement in conduct which places (or may place) another person in peril of death or serious bodily injury.  A charge of aggravated vehicular assault entails a complete disregard for human safety. The intentional elements are different in the two charges and the charge of reckless endangerment does not require such a high showing of intentional disregard. 

The charge of vehicular homicide carries a potential prison term of five to ten years, whereas a charge of driving under the influence is punishable by 72 hours in county jail. The charge of reckless endangerment carries a prison term of up to two years in county jail.

Given the fact that Senavitis has already spent nine months in jail, his PA DUI attorney will have to argue that he has served his sentence, at the sentencing hearing in three months.  If the court agrees, then Senavitis could be released from jail.

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