Charges Filed After Fatal DUI Wreck
Officials recently arrested a 23-year-old woman who was the driver in an earlier alcohol-related crash that killed a passenger in the other car.
In January 2018, the woman lost control of her SUV as she was northbound on Morris Bridge Road. She careened into a southbound car, killing the passenger and seriously injuring the driver. As she was transported to a hospital, officers noted the woman’s glassy eyes and slurred speech. A hospital nurse later informed investigators that the woman’s blood tested positive for alcohol. A subsequent medical examiner’s report confirmed the BAC level to be between .13 and .15.
The woman was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail in lieu of $134,500 bail.
DUI Manslaughter Cases in Tampa
If the defendant was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash, the intoxication substantially caused the crash, and the victim died, prosecutors almost always press DUI manslaughter charges. Aggressive Hillsborough County prosecutors usually pursue the most serious offense which the facts can possibly support.
Still, the state must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Essentially, the evidence on each point must be so overwhelming that there can be no logical conclusion other than guilt. That’s the highest evidentiary burden in the law. If even one juror has a reasonable doubt, the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision and therefore the defendant cannot be found guilty.
Generally, these elements are rather easy to establish. DUI is a regulatory offense, which means that the prosecutor need not prove malice, intent, or even knowledge. The facts of the crash are the only things that matter.
Evidence in Tampa DUI Cases
Typically, chain of custody is not an issue in DUI breath test cases. The defendant blows into a tube, the officer records the Breathalyzer’s results, and that ends the matter. But DUI blood test cases are a little different.
The sample must travel from the defendant’s body to a tube. A technician then takes this tube to a lab for analysis. Sometimes, the tube even passes through the mail. Then, another technician performs that analysis. Finally, the sample goes back to the police station. There are a lot of steps in this process.
Given the facts in the above story, there may be chain of custody issues. The nurse apparently performed a toxicology screen. But there is apparently no sample, and her out-of-court declaration about intoxication is probably inadmissible hearsay. That leaves the medical examiner’s report, and the protocols for this test are unclear.
A chain of custody problem does not invalidate the evidence. However, it does create doubt, and doubt is all that a Tampa DUI defense attorney needs.
There is another inconsistency as well. In layman’s terms, a .15 is usually “falling down drunk.” Yet the defendant did not appear to be anywhere near that intoxicated. This discrepancy could shed additional doubt on the validity of the blood sample.
Rely On Aggressive Lawyers
Evidence, or lack thereof, is critical in criminal cases. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.