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Italy: Legislation on Road Homicide and Road Injury Adopted

(Apr. 6, 2016) On March 25, 2016, new legislation introducing the crimes of “road homicide” (omicidio stradale) and “road personal injury” (lesioni personali stradali) entered into effect in Italy.  (Law No. 41 of March 23, 2016, Introducing the Crime of Road Homicide and the Crime of Road Personal Injury, and Approving Provisions for the Coordination of Legislative Decree No. 285 of April 30, 1992, and Legislative Decree No. 274 of August 28, 2000, GAZETTA UFFICIALE No. 70 (Mar. 24, 2016), available at NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

On March 28, the first arrest made on the basis of the new crimes was reported to have occurred. (Nuova legge: primo arresto per omicidio stradale nel Napoletano [New Law: First Arrest for Road Homicide in Napoletano, R.IT NAPOLI (Mar. 28, 2016).)

Homicide Caused by Violation of Road Traffic Laws

Law No. 41 amends the Criminal Code to punish with one to seven years of imprisonment anyone who causes the death of a person through negligence as a result of violating road traffic rules. (Law No. 41, art. 1(1).)  The Law also establishes  penalties of between eight and twelve years’ imprisonment for those who drive a motor vehicle while intoxicated or in an altered psychological or physical state resulting from ingesting drugs or psychotropic substances and who cause the death of a person, whether or not negligence is involved.  (Id.)  The same penalty applies to persons who negligently cause the death of a person while driving a motor vehicle:

  1. in an urban area at a speed equal to or higher than twice that allowed and not less than 70 km/h (about 43.5 mph), or on a rural highway at a speed higher than at least 50 km/h compared to the maximum allowed (e.g., if the maximum is 50 km/h, then 101 km/h constitutes a violation under this section);
  2. crossing an intersection on a red light or against traffic; or
  3. in reverse in the proximity of or at an intersection, curve, or bump or while passing another vehicle at a pedestrian crossing or when crossing a solid line on the road. (Id.)

The Law specifies the following aggravating circumstances: driving without a driver’s license, with a suspended or revoked license, or in a driver-owned vehicle that lacks mandatory insurance. (Id.)  The fault of the victim is a mitigating factor for the application of the penalties.  (Id.)  In the case of multiple victims, penalties may be increased to a maximum of 18 years of imprisonment.  (Id.)  If the driver runs away from the scene of the accident, the penalty is subsequently increased to no less than five years of incarceration.  (Id.)

Personal Injury Caused by Violation of Road Traffic Laws

Law No. 41 also amends the Criminal Code to punish with three months to one year of imprisonment anyone who negligently causes serious personal injuries to another person as the result of the violation of road traffic rules; the penalty is increased to one to three years of imprisonment if the injuries are “very serious.” (Id. art. 1(2).)

The Law also establishes penalties of between three and five years of imprisonment for those who drive a motor vehicle while intoxicated or in an altered state resulting from ingesting drugs or psychotropic substances and who negligently cause serious injuries to a person. (Id.)  If the injuries are very serious, the penalties are increased to from a minimum of four to a maximum of seven years of incarceration.  (Id.)  The same penalties apply to persons who cause serious injuries or very serious injuries to another party when driving while intoxicated a motor vehicle used to transport persons or things; a motor vehicle or motor vehicle trailer that at full load exceeds 3.5 tons; buses or other motor vehicles used to transport persons that can seat at least eight passengers, excluding the driver; semi-trailers; or articulated vehicles (autosnodati).

For those who negligently cause personal injuries while driving under the same three types of circumstances set forth above that result in death, the Law sets a penalty of from one and a half to three years of incarceration in cases of serious injury, and from two to four years in cases of very serious injuries. (Id.)

The Law specifies the same aggravating circumstances and mitigating factors in connection with personal injury offenses as those described above for road homicides. In the case of multiple victims, the penalties for personal injury offenses are increased to a maximum of seven years.  (Id.)  If the driver flees the scene, the penalty is increased and may not be less than three years of incarceration. (Id.)

The Law further provides that when drivers who refuse to subject themselves to the tests to determine their level of intoxication or whether they are under the influence of drugs (tests that must be previously authorized by a judicial decree) and there is a justifiable reason to consider that delay may create a serious or irreparable prejudice to the investigation, the drivers may for reasons of urgency be made to undergo the procedure orally and the order for it may be obtained later. (Id. art. 1(4)(b).)  In those situations, the judicial police accompany the person to the closest prison hospital to conduct the procedures, forcibly if necessary.  (Id.)  Prompt notice of these events must be provided to the suspect’s legal counsel.  (Id.)

Additional Penalties

Persons convicted of the new crimes established by Law No. 41 are also subject to the revocation of their driver’s license, even if a conditional suspension of the penalty is granted. (Id. art. 1(6)(b).)  The suspension lasts for 15 years from the date of the revocation in cases of a conviction for the death of a victim, 10 years in cases of infliction of personal injury, 20 years in cases of recidivism, and 30 years if the convicted person has not complied with the civil penalties imposed by the sentence or has fled the scene of the accident.  (Id.)

In certain situations where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the victim was at least partially responsible for the events, Law No. 41 allows for the provisional suspension of the driver’s license for a maximum period of 10 years. (Id. art. 1(6)(d).)