A University of Miami student and a Coral Springs police officer were recently arrested and charged with both DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in separate crashes that killed drivers on LeJeune Road in Coral Gables, The Miami Herald reports.
It has become common for prosecutors to charge drivers with DUI manslaughter in Fort Lauderdale as well as vehicular homicide even in cases where there is but one death.
This is legal and gives the state a great advantage over defendants and their Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys. In a case where a vehicle accident causes death, the state is allowed to try to prove that it was either negligence (vehicular homicide) or alcohol-related (DUI manslaughter) actions that led to the crash and death.
While a jury could, technically, find a person guilty of both charges if there were one accident and one death, both charges wouldn’t stand. The state would likely drop the vehicular homicide charge and proceed to sentencing under the DUI manslaughter charge because in Florida, a defendant must serve at least four years in prison if convicted of that charge. Both charges have a maximum possible sentence of 15 years in prison.
The 19-year-old University of Miami student faces both charges plus a felony charge of possessing a false driver’s license. Prosecutors accuse her of a night of drinking after using fake IDs to get into a Miami Beach nightclub. Her blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was reportedly .231, nearly three times the state’s legal limit of .08.
According to the newspaper, the teen caused an accident at LeJeune Road and Majorca Avenue in which a 68-year-old woman died. The newspaper reports that the teen is on house arrest until the trial date.
In a separate case, a 24-year-old Coral Springs police officer was charged about three months after he allegedly caused an accident about a mile away. According to The Herald, the police officer was driving his personal vehicle on LeJeune Road near Aledo Avenue in July when he collided with a pre-law student, who was trying to turn.
According to the newspaper, the officer’s blood-alcohol level was .229, which is about three times above the state’s .08 limit. Police determined that he took no evasive action to avoid the crash.
The officer was allowed to go home and was formally arrested some months later, which caused the victim’s family to question the actions of investigators and wonder if the officer, who’s father is a longtime Miami-Dade police officer, was getting preferential treatment.
The family said that when they arrived at the hospital after the crash, Coral Gables officers began grilling them, asking questions about why the student, who was studying for a test and had no alcohol in her system, was out so late and who paid her phone bill.
In similar circumstances, albeit one who was drinking illegally, on the same road, around the same time (4 a.m.), it will be interesting to see how each is sentenced and whether the punishment is equitable. In each case, the DUI defense attorney will likely pull out all the stops to ensure a fair trial.