A 28-year-old highway worker lost his life when a Tampa Bay woman’s silver pickup truck swerved off the road into a series of construction barrels that filled the closed lane. The young man was busy painting fresh lines on Suncoast Parkway when the truck struck him. He had little chance of survival and was pronounced dead at an area hospital.
The driver, who was on a cocktail of medications for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and a thyroid condition, was accused of driving under the influence of a heroinlike substance called methadone. While she denied that the drug caused her to kill the highway worker, her behavior in the post-accident interrogation, including falling asleep twice in the course of 15 minutes, seemed to bear the hallmarks of methadone use.
How does Florida punish those whose DUIs cause the death of others?
The woman in this case was eventually convicted of driving under the influence manslaughter, a second-degree felony under Florida law that can be punished by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. This offense is akin to vehicular manslaughter, which carries similar penalties but does not require the added element of impaired driving.
From bad to worse: DUI leaving the scene
Florida law provides for heightened penalties when drivers flee the scene of DUI accidents that result in death. Specifically, an individual can be convicted of driving under the influence manslaughter-leaving the scene if the person knew or should have known of the occurrence of an accident and failed to provide information or aid. This is considered a first-degree felony with heightened penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment. Vehicular manslaughter also has a leaving-the-scene offense with similar penalties.
DUI charges of any variety are serious matters that carry major consequences, the severity of which is heightened when victims are killed.