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Clancy v. State

Supreme Court of Nevada

November 27, 2013

Benjamin James CLANCY, Appellant,
v.
The STATE of Nevada, Respondent.

Page 227

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 228

The Weiner Law Group, LLC, and Jason G. Weiner and Nathan Sosa, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, and Jonathan E. VanBoskerck, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent.

Before HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE and CHERRY, JJ.

OPINION

PARRAGUIRRE, J.:

In Nevada, a driver who has been involved in an accident must stop and remain at the scene until he has provided certain information and rendered reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident. NRS 484E.010-.030. If the accident resulted in bodily injury or the death of a person, a driver's failure to stop and remain at the scene is a felony. NRS 484E.010(3). In this appeal, we must determine whether the State is required to prove that the driver had knowledge that he had been involved in an accident. Holding that such knowledge is required and that the knowledge may be actual or constructive, we conclude that sufficient evidence was presented to support the jury's finding that appellant knew or should have known that he was involved in an accident before leaving the scene. Thus, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

FACTS

Appellant Benjamin Clancy was charged with a felony for leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in bodily injury. The accident involved a vehicle driven by Clancy and a motorcycle operated by Barry Robinson. Robinson was traveling southbound on Interstate 15 through Las Vegas early in the morning with his girlfriend, Erica Norris, as a passenger. A vehicle merged in front of him and struck the front tire or fender of his motorcycle, causing him to lose control. Robinson and Norris fell off the motorcycle, which hit the center divider and then skidded across the freeway, stopping in the far right emergency lane.

A passenger in a minivan traveling ahead of Robinson's motorcycle witnessed the accident. Diane Camacho saw a silver SUV strike Robinson's motorcycle and then accelerate, overtaking the minivan on the right side. Camacho saw the driver of the SUV, whom she later identified as Clancy, looking in the rearview mirror and over his shoulder at the crash behind him. The silver SUV exited the freeway at the next off-ramp but did not pull over. Camacho dialed 911 and gave the dispatcher the license plate number for the silver SUV.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper George Thaw arrived on scene to conduct an investigation. After taking photographs of the motorcycle, he interviewed Robinson and Norris in the hospital while waiting for his dispatcher to run the plate numbers taken by Camacho. Thaw learned that the silver SUV belonged to Clancy, and he drove to Nellis Air Force Base, where Clancy was stationed, to question him. While there, he inspected Clancy's car and saw damage to the vehicle's right rear panel, which Thaw estimated was the same height as the front fender of Robinson's motorcycle. Thaw arrested Clancy for leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in bodily injury to a person. Clancy denied having any knowledge of the accident.

At trial, Clancy called an accident reconstruction specialist as an expert witness. Based on scrutiny of the two vehicles and the nature of the markings on Clancy's SUV, the defense expert opined that there was no evidence of a collision between Clancy's SUV and Robinson's motorcycle. The State did not call an expert to rebut this testimony, but it did cross-examine the defense expert as to whether there could have been contact between the two vehicles that could have resulted in the motorcycle's crash without causing significant damage to the SUV.

At the close of evidence, Clancy argued in favor of a jury instruction stating: " You must find ...


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