Tony Stewart could face criminal charges in Kevin Ward Jr case [w/poll]

The tragic case of Tony Stewart striking and killing Kevin Ward, Jr. in a sprint car race earlier this week has been dividing opinions, with some screaming for Stewart's head and others saying that Ward brought it upon himself. But while local law enforcement did not initially arrest Stewart or press criminal charges, that doesn't mean that criminal charges won't still be filed.

Although legal experts seem to agree that a first-degree murder charge could only come about if Stewart were to profess to criminal intent, he could still be charged with second-degree murder if he's thought to have acted recklessly with a "depraved indifference to human life" or first-degree manslaughter if he had intended to intimidate Ward but ended up killing him.

Athletes are regularly allowed to do to each other in the field of competition what would otherwise be considered criminal. Think of football players tackling each other, hockey players getting into fist fights on the ice or baseball players sliding into each other to take a base. Depending on the specific series or discipline, racing has its share of rubbing and bumping, but if Stewart's actions – purposeful or accidental – prove to be outside the realm of normal competition, he could yet face charges. The issue is complicated, however, by such factors as poor lighting on the track and lack of comprehensive video footage at the time of the collision.

Even if Stewart manages to escape criminal prosecution, though, he would likely have to face a civil suit from Ward's family – one which, given his public profile and amassed fortune – he could potentially settle out of court. If you have an opinion you which to share, let us know what you think in our informal poll below.

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