Wellington Man Faces October Trial Date on DUI Manslaughter Charge

A polo magnate from Wellington will go to trial in October on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the February 2010 traffic homicide of a 23-year-old man, The Palm Beach Post reports.

DUI manslaughter in Palm Beach County is a serious charge and can be punished by up to 15 years in prison. But it also requires prosecutors to have substantial evidence against a person. Because of the high stakes involved, hiring aggressive West Palm Beach DUI Lawyers is critical to protecting your rights.
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In the Wellington case, investigators believe the defendant was drunk when he drove his Bentley into the vehicle of another man, forcing his car into a canal where he drowned. The defendant allegedly fled the scene.

According to the newspaper, the man has also faces a civil lawsuit and has refused to answer questions during depositions and declined to answer questions about the accident or his alcohol consumption that night.

This is an example of a tragic accident, but what should be noted is that the state is required to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Law enforcement simply making an arrest isn’t proof that a crime was committed. That’s why our country’s form of criminal justice is the best in the world.

DUI manslaughter, according to Florida Statutes 316.193, is being in violation of the drunk driving statutes (a .08 blood-alcohol level or higher) and killing a person.

So, the state must not only prove that the driver committed the killing, but that the defendant was driving at the time, the victim wasn’t responsible for the accident and that the driver was drunk at the time. There is a lot to prove.

And what people may be confused about is how a defendant can be charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide when one person died and not two. Florida prosecutors routinely are able to charge a person under both theories and prove only one, or both. While a person couldn’t be convicted for both crimes, the state can throw all its evidence at a jury to try to prove one of the crimes.

Vehicular homicide, according to Florida Statutes 782.071, is the killing of a person caused by the operation of a motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause a death.

Both charges are second-degree felonies, which are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. And DUI manslaughter carries a minimum prison sentence of 4 years. So, these are serious charges and require an aggressive defense of the facts of the case, such as who was at fault for the crash, whether witnesses can 100 percent prove the defendant was the driver, and whether law enforcement had probable cause to seek breath tests, field sobriety tests, blood tests and other DUI-related testing.

Trusting former prosecutors who know how assistant state attorneys think and how many police officers do their investigations can be advantageous for defendants. Our lawyers will diligently study the evidence in the case and seek the best resolution for our clients.

If you are arrested on DUI charges in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.

More Blog Entries:

Florida DUI Penalties Can Be Stiff; Fort Lauderdale DUI Attorney is Key: May 16, 2011
Additional Resources:

Trial date set for polo magnate accused of DUI manslaughter, by Susan Spencer-Wendel, The Palm Beach Post

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