Legalese — Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

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The law is filled with examples of how, legally speaking, two wrongs do not make a right.  Revenge is not the same as self-defense.  You can’t strike back literally or metaphorically at someone who has struck at you.  You cannot, in other words, take the law into your own hands.

The most recent example of this is in an opinion handed down by the Georgia Supreme Court in The State v. Mondor, which you can read for yourself by clicking here.  It’s a thirty-something page opinion, so if you’d prefer, I’ll sum it up for you.

Mr. Mondor was involved in a car accident on the interstate.  His right front bumper made contact with the left rear bumper of a second vehicle, which caused it to strike a third vehicle.  A passenger in the third vehicle was ejected from the car and ultimately died as a result of his injuries.  Mondor was charged with homicide by vehicle as a result.

Mondor’s defense was not that he didn’t cause the accident, but rather that the passenger who died was not wearing his seat belt.  It wasn’t the accident that caused his death, but rather the ejection from the car, which was caused by his failure to buckle up for safety.  He appealed his conviction based on the grounds that the court failed to let him present evidence of the passenger’s failure to wear a seatbelt.

The court ultimately decided that although the failure to wear a seatbelt was arguably also a cause of the passenger’s death, it was not the cause, or even the primary or original cause of his injuries.  The injuries would not have happened at all but for Mondor’s clipping of the bumper of the original car.  In a civil (money damages) context, this would be called ‘contributory negligence’, but the Supreme Court decided that contributory negligence has no place in a criminal law context.

In other, more simple words, two wrongs don’t make a right.  The fact that the passenger should have been wearing a seat belt doesn’t change the fact that Mondor should have stayed in his own lane.

So what does this tell us?  In a narrow, legal context it tells us, “But he was wrong, too” isn’t much of a defense.  In a traffic safety context it tells us, “Buckle up, seatbelts save lives.”  In a metaphorical sense, it tells us to stay in our own lanes and mind our own businesses and let others worry about their own lanes and businesses.

It also tells me to go home and hug my babies.  Because you never know.

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.  It is being offered for informational purposes only.  

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