People in Colorado may remember an incident that occurred in January in Aurora in which an R-Line train derailed, allegedly because the conductor was rounding a curve too fast during inclement weather. Nine people on the train suffered injuries in the incident. Police, after performing an investigation, recommended that the conductor be charged with nine counts of assault.
However, prosecutors from the 18th Judicial District decided that the conductor will not face any criminal charges in connection with the incident. Per a letter issued by the district attorney's office, there was not enough evidence to prove the conductor was operating the train recklessly at the time of the incident. In addition, under Colorado law conductors of trains are excluded from certain driving offenses and there are no state laws that expressly refer to conductors of light rail trains.
RTD and the chief deputy district attorney agreed that speed played a primary role in the incident. However, the prosecution determined that the evidence was insufficient to charge the conductor with a crime, because Colorado law doesn't specifically mention and penalize the conductor's actions. The conductor was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the incident occurred nor did the conductor act recklessly or with extreme indifference as these terms are defined by law. Trains do not fall under the definition of vehicles per state law, so the conductors of trains cannot be charged with certain traffic offenses that operators of other motor vehicles would be subject to.
This incident shows how important it is for prosecutors to ensure that they have an ethical basis on which to charge someone with a crime. If a person has not done anything illegal, they should not be criminally charged. People who find themselves facing criminal charges will want to ensure they develop a solid defensive strategy with the help of a criminal defense lawyer.