Articles Posted in DUI Manslaughter

Our Palm Beach and Broward County DUI defense lawyers have learned that a Miami woman will face charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the 2014 death of a motorcyclist.
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According to reports, the 22-year-old woman was driving the wrong way on I-95 in Ft. Lauderdale back in July, when she struck and killed a man, age 42. At the time of the accident, she was under the influence of alcohol. When her blood was tested three hours after the crash, it was revealed that the woman had a BAC level of 0.189, well over double the legal limit.

As we know from experience as former prosecutors and now as tested criminal defense lawyers, DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide charges can yield serious consequences, and someone facing such charges needs to hire an experienced criminal defense team in order to mount a viable legal defense.
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In the midst of the high-profile trial of a polo mogul, who is slated to face a jury on charges of DUI manslaughter in West Palm Beach this week, defense attorneys are calling the entire affair “a circus.”

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That’s because ever since the defendant was arrested, the media has been swarming, reporting every last detail of the case – as well as many other details that should have no bearing on the man’s guilt or innocence. Vehicular homicide charges are spelled out in news reports indicate the mogul has reached a settlement in the civil case the family had filed against him for wrongful death. The criminal trial, however, is pushing forward – with local media outlets casting heavy coverage on the case. Even the national media has shone their spotlight as well.

Unfortunately, it’s clear that some of what is being reported not only bears no relevance to the case, but is negatively influencing jurors. Ultimately, this could prevent him from receiving a fair trial.

The first issue that has come up repeatedly is the defendant’s wealth. One article in his native Houston described him as living the high life – clad in tuxedos and attending parties sprinkled with celebrities and paparazzi, taking vacations to exotic places. The writer even ended the description with the phrase: “All of it could be lost if prosecutors saddle Goodman with the one thing some in Palm Beach insist celebrities there typically escape: responsibility.”

Highly prejudicial, right?

Not to mention that in this era of “Occupy Wall Street,” there is certainly an air of mistrust between the average person and someone with a great deal of wealth. That, too, could hurt him in this case.

The other detail that media outlets have squeezed out on the brink of trial is that the defendant recently adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, in an effort to grant her access to the trust fund that had originally been set up for his two minor children. While some may certainly find this odd or even distasteful, it has nothing to do with what happened on the night in question or whether or not he is guilty of DUI manslaughter. Yet, this detail has been widely reported.

There is even a website that has been created to detail every aspect of the case, and on which all public records related to the case is readily available with a few clicks. One potential juror said he had visited the site.

As one defense attorney stated, even the scene outside the courthouse could be enough to tip the scales. On the slim chance you could find someone who hadn’t heard of the case or read the reports in any detail, there are protestors outside the courthouse, chanting and holding signs urging the system to lock him up and throw away the key.

This is where the experience of a good criminal defense attorney is going to be important. Navigating such complex issues when someone’s freedom is on the line isn’t a simple task. If find yourself accused of a serious crime like DUI manslaughter, you need an attorney who is knowledgeable and willing to fight for you.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The widow of a man who was killed by a drunk driver in 2001 has reportedly settled with Outback Steakhouse for an undisclosed amount. The restaurant chain was accused of violating its duty of not knowingly serving alcohol to persons habitually addicted to the use of any and all alcoholic beverages.

The driver who killed the Florida man and seriously injured his friend had apparently been drinking at Outback Steakhouse before the accident. She admitted to alcoholism during her sentencing and is currently imprisoned at Hillsborough Correctional Institution, where she is serving a 14 year sentence for DUI manslaughter. According to lab reports from the night of the accident, her blood-alcohol level was 0.24. The legal limit for adults in Florida is 0.08.

The deceased man’s widow has since moved out of Florida with her daughter.

Source: Widow gets settlement from Outback Steakhouse in DUI manslaughter case, The South Florida Sun Sentinel, October 15, 2010 Continue reading

Yesterday in a Miami-Dade county courtroom, wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth received a 30-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter. The 28-year-old athlete could have faced up to 15 years in jail for hitting and killing a 59-year-old pedestrian with his Bentley after a night of drinking at Miami Beach’s Fountainbleauhotel.

Following Stallworth’s release from prison, he will serve two years of house arrest and spend eight years on probation. He must also undergo drug and alcohol testing and perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Stallworth and his defense attorney reached the plea bargain in part because of the family’s desire to have the case resolved and avoid further pain. Miami-Dade State attorney also cited Stallworth’s willingness to accept responsibility and cooperation with law enforcement as factors in the decision. Stallworth also reached a confidential financial settlement with the family of the DUI victim.

 

 

Browns’ Stallworth pleads guilty and gets 30 days, Associated Press, June 16, 2009 Continue reading

Our South Florida defense attorneys have heard that Donte Stallworth, 28-year-old wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, pleaded not guilty to DUI manslaughter charges in a Miami-Dade courtroom last week. The defendant was not present for the hearing on Thursday morning, but his attorney entered the not guilty plea.

According to an affidavit, the defendant’s blood alcohol level was .126 when he reportedly hit and killed a 59-year-old man on a Miami Beach causeway. He is now free on $200,000 bail and is required to abstain from alcohol, not drive, and follow a curfew.

If convicted of DUI manslaughter, Stallworth faces up to 15 years in jail. His trial is scheduled for July 7th.

 

 

Stallworth enters plea in DUI manslaughter case, Associated Press, June 4, 2009
Dante Stallworth Enters Not Guilty Plea, MyStateLine.com, June 4, 2009 Continue reading

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