While Miami-Dade and Broward County send prosecutors to such hearings, the Palm Beach County State Attorney has refused to do so. In all cases, a criminal defense lawyer in Palm Beach or Broward should represent the defendant. Significant fines and the loss of your driver’s license may result. In addition, defending yourself may be in your best interest in the event of a wrongful death lawsuit.
The fatality hearings are held in cases where prosecutors have decided no aggravating circumstances — such as drunk driving or speeding — warrant criminal charges in an accident involving death. About 130 such hearings were held last year in Palm Beach County.
While a spokesperson with the Florida Highway Patrol said he saw no reason a trooper could not handle such cases alone, a local judge said an officer’s lack of knowledge about rules of evidence and other legal issues can favor the defense.
“The playing field is ridiculously imbalanced,” said County Court Judge Barry Cohen. “It’s horrible. There should be a prosecutor at every fatality hearing.”
A police officer may also fail to appear. When an officer does appear, he or she may fail to subpoena witnesses or present other evidence. Judges are only able to rule on the amount of evidence presented to them.