Florida police and courts take driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol very seriously. A DUI conviction can come with stiff penalties, including jail time, heavy fines, and the loss of driving privileges. The consequences of a conviction are particularly severe in cases involving repeat offenders and those in which the person charged caused an accident while they were intoxicated behind the wheel. Just take the recent case of a Clearwater man whom a federal court recently decided will be staying in jail for decades.
The case centered on an accident that happened in April 2010. Clearwater police were after the defendant on an unrelated misdemeanor warrant and received a tip that he was hanging out at a local bar. An officer observed the defendant’s truck in the bar parking lot and pulled the truck over shortly after he saw the defendant leave in it. When the officer approached the vehicle, however, the defendant sped away. A chase ensued, during which the defendant ran a red light and collided with a taxi cab. The cab driver died in the accident.
The defendant, whose driver’s license had already been revoked, was taken to a hospital, where a blood test showed that he had a blood alcohol content of about 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit. He was convicted of DUI manslaughter and other offenses and sentenced to 20 years in jail. He later asked the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to scrap the conviction. He argued that prospective jurors in the case had inappropriate conversations with a representative of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the cab driver’s family, in which they discussed some of his previous convictions for DUI.