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2017 (A) 927

2018.10.23
2017 (A) 927
Keishu Vol. 72, No. 5
Decision on a case where the court of prior instance judged that the accused is criminally liable as a coprincipal for the offense of dangerous driving causing death or injury as set forth in Article 2, item (v) of the Act on Punishment of Acts Inflicting Death or Injury on Others by Driving a Motor Vehicle, etc.
Case under public prosecution for dangerous driving causing death or injury and for violation of the Road Traffic Act
Decision of the Second Petty bench, dismissed
Sapporo High Court, Judgment of April 14, 2017
In a traffic accident where the accused and person A each drove an automobile, deliberately ignored a red signal light and drove their respective vehicles into the intersection, resulting in the vehicle driven by A crashing into another automobile carrying five victims, killing four of them and seriously injuring the remaining one, the accused is criminally liable as a coprincipal for the offense of dangerous driving causing death or injury as set forth in Article 2, item (v) of the Act on Punishment of Acts Inflicting Death or Injury on Others by Driving a Motor Vehicle, etc., including the deaths and injuries resulting from the vehicle driven by A, under the factual circumstances in this case where the accused and A, each knowing that the other intends to deliberately ignore a red signal light at the intersection and each being inspired by the other’s driving, mutually enhanced their intention to deliberately ignore a red signal light with the intent of passing the intersection at the same high speed as if competing over speed, and drove their respective vehicles together into the intersection at high speed over 100 km/h (see the decision text).
Article 2, item (v) of the Act on Punishment of Acts Inflicting Death or Injury on Others by Driving a Motor Vehicle, etc.; and Article 60 of the Penal Code



Act on Punishment of Acts Inflicting Death or Injury on Others by Driving a Motor Vehicle, etc.

(Dangerous Driving Causing Death or Injury)

Article 2 A person who engages in any of the following acts is subject to punishment by imprisonment with work for not more than 15 years when the person thereby causes injury of another or imprisonment with work for a definite term of not less than 1 year when the person thereby causes the death of another.

(v) an act of driving a motor vehicle deliberately ignoring a red signal light or its equivalent, at a speed that can cause serious danger to traffic;

Penal Code

(Co-Principals)

Article 60 Two or more persons who commit a crime in joint action are all principals.
The final appeal is dismissed.

Out of the number of days of pre-sentencing detention for this trial, 430 days are included in the calculation of the sentence.
Counsel TERASAKI Hirofumi’s reasons for final appeal are substantially allegations of mere legal violations and factual errors and do not constitute any of the grounds for final appeal specified in Article 405 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Considering the arguments made in the reasons for final appeal, the Court decides ex officio on whether or not the accused is criminally liable as a coprincipal for the offense of dangerous driving causing death or injury in this case.

1. An outline of the facts of the offense of dangerous driving causing death or injury in this case found in the judgment of prior instance is as follows:

Around 10:34 p.m. on June 6, 2015, on a two-lane road in Sunagawa City of Hokkaido, the accused was driving a medium-duty truck (hereinafter referred to as the “Accused’s Truck”) on the second lane, just after the passenger car driven by A (hereinafter referred to as “A’s Car”) on the first lane. When the two vehicles were driving through an intersection (hereinafter referred to as the “Intersection”) at which the traffic was controlled by traffic lights, the accused, in order to drive at high speed as if the two vehicles were competing with each other over speed, intended to keep driving without paying attention to the indication of the facing traffic light installed at the Intersection (hereinafter referred to as the “Traffic Light”) by ignoring any red signal light that may be indicated thereby. In conspiracy with each other, the accused and A both deliberately ignored the red signal light which had been indicated by the Traffic Light since approximately 32 seconds before, with A driving A’s Car into the Intersection at approximately 111 km/h, which is a speed that gives rise to a serious traffic hazard, immediately followed by the accused’s driving the Accused’s Truck into the Intersection at a speed over 100 km/h, which is a speed that gives rise to a serious traffic hazard, resulting in A crashing A’s Car into the medium-duty truck driven by B (carrying C, D, E and F as passengers) which had proceeded from the left-side road in accordance with the traffic signal, causing C and D to be thrown out of the truck and to fall onto the road, followed by the Accused’s Truck driven by the accused running over D, dragging D with the bottom part of the Accused’s Truck and so on, thereby killing B, C, D and E and injuring F, who suffered diffuse axonal injury, basal skull fracture, etc. requiring an unknown period of medical treatment.

2. The court of prior instance found that the accused and A both drove their respective vehicles into the Intersection, either knowing for sure the red signal light indicated by the Traffic Light or without paying attention to the red signal light because of a lack of intention to follow the traffic instructions provided by the traffic light, and that this allows the presumption that the accused and A “deliberately ignor[ed]” the red signal light as referred to in Article 2, item (v) of the Act on Punishment of Acts Inflicting Death or Injury on Others by Driving a Motor Vehicle, etc. (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”). The court of prior instance then ruled that it is found without reasonable doubt that before reaching the Intersection, the accused and A mutually knew that they were driving their respective vehicles into the Intersection with the intention of deliberately ignoring a red signal light, that they conspired with each other by tacitly sharing such intention, and that they drove their respective vehicles into the Intersection by continuing to drive them at high speed, thereby committing the act of dangerous driving described in section 1 above. Accordingly, the court of prior instance upheld the judgment of first instance which found that the accused was criminally liable as a coprincipal for the facts of the offense of dangerous driving causing death or injury, including the deaths and injuries of B, C, E and F which occurred solely as a result of the crash with A’s Car as described in section 1 above.

3. In response, the reasons for final appeal argue, among others, that in a case like this one, the offense of dangerous driving causing death or injury should not be found to have been committed in conspiracy unless there was explicit communication, so the judgment of prior instance erred in the interpretation of Article 60 of the Penal Code.

4. Let us now consider this point. According to the findings and records of the judgment of first instance upheld by the court of prior instance, it is found that the accused and A, after stopping their respective vehicles behind an automobile driven by a third person who stopped at a red light before an intersection more than 2 km before the Intersection, both rapidly increased the speed of their respective vehicles upon the traffic signal turning green, overtook the aforementioned vehicle in front by changing lanes in an aggressive manner, and continued to drive in a row at high speed of over approximately 130 km/h on a road with a speed limit of 60 km/h, until they drove their respective vehicles into the Intersection, in a row in the order of A’s Car and the Accused’s Truck, at high speed over 100 km/h with the intention of deliberately ignoring any red signal light at the Intersection, resulting in the accident described in section 1 above.

In light of their behavior described above, it is fair to say that the accused and A, each knowing that the other intends to deliberately ignore a red signal light at the Intersection and each being inspired by the other’s driving, mutually enhanced their intention to deliberately ignore the red signal light with the intent of passing the Intersection at the same high speed as if competing over speed, and drove their respective vehicles together into the intersection at high speed over 100 km/h.

Based on the factual circumstances described above, it is fair to say that the accused and A tacitly shared the intention of deliberately ignoring a red signal light and driving their respective automobiles at a speed that gives rise to a serious traffic hazard, and jointly committed the act of dangerous driving. Therefore, the Court should find that the accused is criminally liable as a coprincipal for the offense of dangerous driving causing death and injury under Article 2, item (v) of the Act, including the deaths and injuries resulting from A’s Car.

Therefore, the judgment of prior instance, which upheld the judgment of first instance which found that the accused was criminally liable as a coprincipal for the offense of dangerous driving causing death or injury as described in section 1 above, is legitimate.

Accordingly, the Court unanimously decides as set forth in the main text in accordance with Article 414, item (iii) of paragraph (1) of Article 386 and the proviso to paragraph (1) of Article 181 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and Article 21 of the Penal Code.
Justice ONIMARU Kaoru

Justice YAMAMOTO Tsuneyuki

Justice KANNO Hiroyuki
(This translation is provisional and subject to revision.)