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In my speculative fiction work-in-progress (sorry about the fantasy elements :), but to be frank, superhero prose is a hard sell and I need some weirdness like this to interest the suits in publishing). I have this chapter wherein the protagonist, a 21 y.o. normal human male is transformed into a Superman-like being, the only such “super” in the world. Powers include flight and invulnerability.

Just a few hours after this freakish transformation, he goes riding on his Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle, to think (this takes place in Florida). While he is riding along, he runs over a pit in the road, blows a front tire, and pancakes, eating pavement in the process. He slides into the opposite lane into the path of an 18-wheeler and gets run over. In the following, he suffers no harm whatsoever as he is invulnerable.

EIGHTEEN WHEELER SEMI

His path is in purple (under the truck). The front tire of the truck hits him and blows as well, causing the truck driver to lose control.

Long story short, he rises to his hands and knees at X, in effect becoming an roughly 30 inch tall, immovable, indestructible object. Then he’s struck by the trailer rear tires (red squares). They shear off, all 8 tires and two axles as a unit, go airborne and land across the road in a parking lot on top of a car. A woman inside that car is killed immediately. The truck itself jack-knifes and wrecks, turning over.

The protagonist doesn’t notice crushed car across the road, checks out the truck driver (who’s the sole occupant), sees that he’s belted up, unharmed, and coming to. He looks around; there are no other witnesses--it’s a Sunday morning, and leaps over to his slightly damaged bike. Handlebars in hand he rises straight up a thousand feet or so, surveys the scene, hears sirens, and leaves the scene. Why? He’s a physical freak, and he’s nervous about revealing himself so early. Read too many comics ;).

He doesn’t know about the fatality until weeks later when it’s revealed to him. Now he decides to turn himself in, even though the authorities are unaware of him (the truck driver was blamed, even though he swears a motorcyclist caused him to wreck). The protag, remorseful, does turn himself in, although he mentions nothing of his abilities, the super powers that is. Just a clear-cut case, he lost control of his bike, the wreck and fatality occurred. He miraculously escaped injury, he claims, and panicked (which I doubt the investigators would buy), not noticing the crushed car across the street.

First question: what would he be charged with, since I assume he caused the wreck and he did leave the scene? Maybe involuntary manslaughter?

Next question: if found guilty, could he face incarceration? I should add he has no record.

Working toward my next question; during the wait for trial an alphabet agency in DC discovers (long story) that this guy is a freak, a superhuman of unknown abilities. They approach the judge in the case and ask him to make the defendant an offer when he announces the sentence. Jail or join the military. The Feds wants the man’s real abilities investigated and possibly have him utilized in say, special forces. So...

Last question: This offer seem possible in today’s courts? I think the actor Steve McQueen was offered this (before fame), IIRC.

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    This is the long-story short version? Are you paid by the word? – feetwet Aug 13 '15 at 20:48
  • Nope, but the novel is 160,000+ words – catsteevens Aug 14 '15 at 3:39
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I'm not sure what jurisdiction you're referring to, but here are the state involuntary manslaughter laws. Broad brush, the elements tend to be:

  1. Someone was killed as a result of act by the defendant.
  2. The act either was inherently dangerous to others or done with reckless disregard for human life.
  3. The defendant knew or should have known his or her conduct was a threat to the lives of others.

However, you're really backwards planning from a jail vs. army decision, so you might actually be after something like felony hit and run, which can most certainly result in incarceration. The elements of felony hit and run generally include leaving the scene of an accident regardless of fault (hit and run typically becomes a felony when someone was injured in the accident). Since the elements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it makes sense to look them up wherever the accident will take place in the book. If it takes place in the U.S. this is a state-by-state compendium.

Then you can tweak the story to satisfy the applicable elements and induce the jail vs. army decision (even if army policy prohibits it, it's still pretty common fiction!).

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    I'm not a lawyer, but this sounds about right. I doubt the protagonist would be on the hook for manslaughter or anything like it, since someone was killed accidentally as a result of him doing something absolutely normal and reasonable. His leaving the scene, on the other hand, is the part with some legal ramifications. – Nuclear Wang Aug 12 '15 at 14:37
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    @Pat W. Whoops, edited the location. Thanks for the link. So, a quick scan--leaving a scene with a fatality is a 1st degree felony, plus $10,000 fine, restitution and 120 hours community service. I didn't see anything about jail, but it sure sounds probable. Very helpful; thanks to you and jqning. – catsteevens Aug 12 '15 at 14:42
  • Here: minimum 21 months, max 30 years. I wonder how the Feds could get around the lawsuits from the decedent's estate and the property damage :). – catsteevens Aug 13 '15 at 13:34
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As to question no. 2, apparently yes. ARLINGTON, Va. — A New York judge gave Michael Guerra the chance to join the Army to avoid a jail sentence. On those terms, the Army doesn’t want him.

  • Yes, although apparently it's still being done according to the article. Maybe the DC agency could get around the regulation by making the character a sub-contractor of the military? That's what I had planned; the main character is not soldier material, but can be used in other ways. – catsteevens Aug 12 '15 at 13:54

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