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Hughes v. State

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was intoxicated and drove her car into another car and killed a baby that was almost to term. Appellant argued that the baby was not yet a human being because it had been born dead.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Whether or nor the fetus is born alive, an unborn fetus that is viable at the time of injury is a human being which may be the victim of a homicide.

    Facts. Appellant was driving while intoxicated and crashed into another car. The victim was a nine month pregnant woman. The baby died from the impact and the mother survived. A jury convicted Appellant of first-degree manslaughter and driving under the influence. Appellant argued that her manslaughter conviction should be overturned on the basis of the common law ‘born alive’ rule because the baby was in effect dead prior to birth and thus cannot be the victim of a homicide.

    Issue. Whether a baby that is born dead can be the victim of a homicide.

    Held. Reversed. The fetus was dead at the time of birth.
    The definition of a human life includes a viable human fetus.

    Whether or nor the fetus is born alive, an unborn fetus that is viable at the time of injury is a human being which may be the victim of a homicide.

    Dissent. The dissent concurred in part and dissented in part. The dissent concurred that a viable fetus should be considered a human being for the purposes of the statute. The dissent argued that as a result of the accident, a viable fetus was injured and killed. The dissent argued that medical evidence showed that the baby would have lived but for the crash with Appellant.

    Discussion. The Court ruled to abandon the born alive rule. The Court noted that advances in medicine and scientific knowledge have abolished the need for such a rule because the only reason for this rule was that medical knowledge was insufficient to determine the health of a child until it was born back when the rule had effect. The Court stated that several other jurisdictions had abandoned the rule for similar reasons. However, the Court still ruled for Appellant because the fetus was pronounced dead prior to birth.


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