Clearwater Driver in Fatal DUI Crash Stays Behind Bars

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.

Legal News GavelThe 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The defendant, whose driver’s license had already been revoked, was taken to a hospital, where a blood test showed that he had a blood alcohol content of about 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit.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.

The District Court rejected this argument, finding that the defendant failed to properly raise it during his appeal in the state court system. “[The] claim is procedurally defaulted and can only be considered if he establishes either cause and prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice,” the court said. “[The defendant] does not argue or establish cause and prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice to overcome the default.”

The defendant also claimed that he was prejudiced during the trial because the prosecutor frequently mentioned that the cops were on his tail with an arrest warrant for the unrelated misdemeanor. The District Court disagreed, siding with the state judge’s finding that the prosecutor was allowed to reference the warrant in order to give the jury a full sense of how the accident happened.

As a result, the Court dismissed the case, and the defendant’s harsh sentence will remain in effect.

If you or a loved one has been charged with drinking and driving in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced DUI lawyer. Clearwater DUI attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (813) 228-7095 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Analyzes What Constitutes a “Weapon” Under the Felony Reclassification Statute, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, 

Identification of Typo Changes Crime Classification in Florida Defendant’s Conviction, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2017

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