New Hampshire State Police Escort Vehicle to Hospital with Expectant Mother and then Ticket Driver


see source, ABC news

In Londonberry, New Hampshire, U.S. on Saturday, September 18, 2010, in the early hours of the morning, John and Angela Coughlin couldn’t sleep.

New Hampshire State Trooper Badge #963 Francisco Vicente greeted John Coughlin with a Speeding Ticket, that he wrote in the Emergency waiting room, while Angela was giving birth to Kyle on September 18, 2010 in Manchester, New Hampshire

This story is about a couple, John and Angela Coughlin and their unborn child. It began last year on Friday, September 18, 2009, after 3:00 a.m. in the city of Londonberry, New Hampshire and has not yer ended in the City of  Manchester, New Hampshire.

Angela and John were awake, given that Angela was experiencing contractions every five (5) minutes.  The couple got into their car and started out for the twenty five (25) minute drive from their home in Londonberry, N.H. to the Catholic Medical Center (of the “CMC”) in Manchester, N.H.

It was early in the morning, there was little traffic on the roads and the lighting that morning, made it easy to see the road ahead, while driving.

John Coughlin was driving their vehicle and was travelling on the Interstate 293 (I-293), which is a long loop of about 11 miles (18 km) in length, which surrounds Manchester, New Hampshire. The posted speed limit on the 1-293 is 55 mph.

As John was driving to the hospital, Angela’s water broke and she announced that the baby would be born in minutes. At this point, John began to accelerate to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Mr. Coughlin said “had to get them (his spouse and yet to be born baby) to safety.

As John was doing his best to manage the medical emergency that he and his spouse, Angela were facing, in a rest stop on the I-293, New Hampshire State Trooper Francisco Vicente sat in his police cruiser. When he saw the Coughlin’s car speed by, he drove out of the rest stop and began to give chase.

City of Manchester, Incorporated June 1846, City Seal "Labor Vincit"

State trooper Vecente followed the Londonberry, N.S. couple with his cruiser’s rooftop blue lights flashing and allegedly observed their car travelling at speeds in excess of 100 mph and tried to pull him over, at which point Mr. Coughlin called 911 to inform them that he was speeding in response to a medical emergency.

He called 911 and said to the operator “I’m being pulled over by a cop but my wife’s in labour” as his spouse, Angela emphasized this point with her screams of pain.

“Her water just broke, I’m just on my way to the hospital,” John Coughlin told the 911 operator.

The 911 operator was able to convey this information to State Trooper Vecente, who then moved his cruiser in front of the Coughlin’s car, turned on his rooftop flashing blue lights and provided the couple with an escort to the Catholic Medical Center’s “Emergency Department” and were quickly admitted into the hospital. Six (6) minutes later, their baby boy was born and they named him “Kyle”.

John and Angela’s daughter, Alexis, now had a baby brother.

After this emotional rollercoaster event, 32 year old John Coughlin left Angela and baby Kyle in the delivery room to call his relatives to provide them with the great news. As his came out he saw State Trooper Francisco Vicente who was still in the Emergency seating area.

Honor Labor!

He told State Trooper Vicente that his baby boy had been born. State Trooper Vicente responded by saying “Congratulations on your son. And the bad news is, I’m going to have to see you in court,”.

John Coughlin had no idea that as Angela was giving birth to their son, State Trooper #963 Francisco Vicente was in the Emergency waiting room, speedily writing up a speeding ticket (#364153) that would potentially deprive this new father, of his driver’s licence.  Vicente claimed on the ticket that Coughlin was travelling at 102 mph in a 55 mph zone and that the weather that morning was “cloudy”.

State Trooper Francisco Vicente could have exercised his discretion and celebrated his role in the experience of assisting this couple in one of life’s miracles, but chose instead to generate this ticket and present it immediately after the baby’s birth.

The ticket instructed John Coughlin that he had “MUST APPEAR” in the Manchester District Court and could face a fine up to a $1000.00. Mr. Coughlin was told that if he simply pleaded guilty to the charge that he could lose his driver’s licence as a result.

The judge presiding in the trial for Coughlin’s speeding ticket (47 mph over the limit) has discretion with respect to the fine ultimately imposed (normally the fine associated with exceeding the speed limit by 25 mph ranges from $350.00 to a maximum of $1,000.00). In addition to the maximum $1000.00 fine, his driver’s licence could be suspended for 30 days and there is a risk that his insurance premiums may increase.  A jury of Coughlin’s peers however, could have the ticket dismissed entirely.

But Coughlin can’t predict the outcome, needs his driver’s licence to get to work in Massachusetts (Londonberry to Massachusetts is a two and a half hour return trip) and as a result he is forced to fight this ticket or risk losing his licence.

John Coughlin had a scheduled appearance over this matter with the Manchester District Court on January 3, 2011, but didn’t appear. Both John and Angela instead showed up a day late and John paid for it.

On January 10, 2011 he had to appear again to at the Manchester District Court respond to the citation he was issued as a result of his “no-show” on January 3, 2011. He was forced to pay a $50.00 fee for not appearing earlier and was provided with an April, 2011 court date..

“This case shouldn’t go too far too fast,” defence lawyer Mark Stevens told New Hampshire TV station WMUR.

“If the driver reasonably believes that he’s avoiding harm that’s greater than the one he creates, in other words if the birth of his baby is more important than a speeding ticket, then he has a justification to do that.”

The Manchester District Court has scheduled a trial date for April 4, 2011 to hear this matter.

see source – Wikipedia

In Canada the Supreme Court has dealt with the type of issue, when it confronts motorists. It is called “Defence of Necessity” and is a common law defence.

Canadian criminal law allows for a common law defence of necessity. The leading case for the defence is Perka v. The Queen [1984] 2 S.C.R. 232 in which Dickson J. described the rationale for the defence as a recognition that:

a liberal and humane criminal law cannot hold people to the strict obedience of laws in emergency situations where normal human instincts, whether of self-preservation or of altruism, overwhelmingly impel disobedience.

However, it must be “strictly controlled and scrupulously limited.” and can only be applied in the strictest of situations where true “involuntariness” is found. Three elements are required for a successful defence :

  1. the accused must be in imminent peril or danger
  2. the accused must have had no reasonable legal alternative to the course of action he or she undertook
  3. the harm inflicted by the accused must be proportional to the harm avoided by the accused

Each element must be proven on an objective standard. The peril or danger must be more than just foreseeable or likely. It must be near and unavoidable.

At a minimum the situation must be so emergent and the peril must be so pressing that normal human instincts cry out for action and make a counsel of patience unreasonable.

With regard to the second element, if there was a realistic or objectively reasonable legal alternative to breaking the law, then there can be no finding of necessity. Regarding the third element requiring proportionality, the harm avoided must be at least comparable to the harm inflicted.

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