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Erin Brown wasn't driving her car when it struck and killed two people and injured a third. Her drunk boyfriend, Trevor Bradshaw, was behind the wheel. Nonetheless, she's been charged with vehicular homicide and now faces 30 years in jail.
These charges are the result of a little-known Tennessee law that prohibits a vehicle owner from knowingly allowing her car to be operated in an illegal manner. Violators can be charged with the same crime as the individual driving the vehicle.
When Bradshaw was charged with vehicular homicide and assault, prosecutors decided to charge Brown as well.
The charges stem from a December incident during which the couple was out drinking. Erin Brown, believing Bradshaw was the least drunk of the two, gave him the keys to her car, explains the Tennessean. He ended up killing two men and hitting another vehicle head-on.
Though the law applies in this situation, it is more often used in DUI cases, notes the paper. Car owners are often charged when a driver is arrested for driving under the influence. This is only the second time the law has been used to prosecute a homicide.
This is likely the result of the high burden of proof. It's often difficult to prove the owner knew her vehicle was being driven in an illegal manner. However, prosecutors currently believe they have enough evidence, as Erin Brown watched Trevor Bradshaw consume alcohol.
Even if prosecutors are unable to convince a jury, Erin Brown may still be held responsible for handing over the keys to her drunk boyfriend. Just as in every other state in the country, she can be sued in civil court. It's negligent to give your car keys to even a tipsy person.