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Car Crash Leads to Death of Stoughton Woman, Proposed Changes to State Law

July 26, 2012


A fatal car accident in late June has led to calls for changes to state law. The accident involved a car driven by an undocumented immigrant from Brazil, which struck another vehicle and killed that vehicle's driver. The immigrant now faces criminal charges including motor vehicle homicide and driving without a license. Lawmakers are now speaking out about the accident, in large part based on the driver's immigration status, calling for increased penalties for driving without a license and changes to how the state registers motor vehicles.

The accident occurred at about 5:45 a.m. on Sunday, June 24, 2012, in Canton. A 2007 Nissan Sentra driven by 32 year-old Auricelli Braga reportedly struck a vehicle driven by 64 year-old Sara Escudero. Escudero died in the crash, and Braga was transported to Boston Medical Center for treatment for injuries. Both women were Stoughton residents. Escudero immigrated from Chile in 1985 and eventually became a United States citizen. Braga reportedly came to the United States from Brazil on a temporary visa in 2001, and remained after it expired in 2002.

After an investigation of the crash, prosecutors charged Braga with motor vehicle homicide, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and driving without a license. The court ordered Braga to be held on $250,000 bail. Immigration authorities announced that they would take custody of her if she posted bail.

Although Braga apparently did not have a valid driver's license, she was able to register her vehicle with the state. Under state law, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) may issue license plates to anyone presenting an insurance policy, with no requirement of a driver's license or proof of residency in the state. Lawmakers have responded by calling for numerous changes to state law, some directly related to issues brought up by the accident, and some related at best peripherally.

An amendment to the state budget, adopted by the Senate before the accident, gained renewed attention because of its proposed changes to various motor vehicle laws. The amendment would increase penalties for driving without a valid license, as well as for allowing a person without a license to drive a vehicle. It also contained provisions requiring employers, health care administrators, and public housing administrators to check immigration statuses or employment authorization. Much of the debate turned away from issues of motor vehicle safety and auto accident prevention, and more towards immigration issues.

Governor Deval Patrick signed the state budget on July 8, approving the increased penalties for driving without a license. He made modifications, however, to the budget's requirement for proof of residency in order to register a vehicle. Governor Patrick noted that ownership of a vehicle by a non-resident does not, by itself, endanger the public. Another effort to restrict vehicle registration to people with valid social security numbers or driver's licenses passed the Legislature, and it went to the Governor for his signature or veto on July 24.

The lawyers at Sousa & Sousa represent clients throughout Easton, Bridgewater, Brockton, Stoughton, Taunton, and other surrounding communities. To speak with a skilled personal injury attorney today, you may call our Brockton office at (508) 230-5300, or you may contact us through our website.

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Photo credit: 'Reservoir Pond, Canton, MA' by Jameslwoodward (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.