Florida DUI Manslaughter Sentencing Heavily Influenced by Victim's Families
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A DUI manslaughter conviction in the State of Florida carries a four-year sentence since the law's mandatory minimum status was imposed in 2007. However, prosecutors can waive this compulsory edict and allow a judge to use their discretion to show leniency if they choose to do so, regarding their final sentencing decision.
This was the case in 2009 when Donté Stallworth a professional football player who started at wide receiver for several NFL teams was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a probation consisting of one thousand hours of community service, two years of community control, and eight years' probation, after being found guilty of killing a pedestrian who was crossing the MacArthur Causeway in Miami-Dade County once being convicted of DUI manslaughter.
He was released from jail after serving 24 days.
Mario Reyes was killed in the early morning hours before the sun came up when Stallworth's vehicle hit him. Relatives of the Reyes family who appeared at trial pushed for a lenient sentence for the former NFL pro. It was also noted by the defense that Reyes wasn't in the crosswalk at the time of the incident and also pointed out the murky early-morning lighting conditions.
Moreover, it was revealed that Reyes' family was paid an undisclosed settlement by Stallworth.
In a contrasting case Kayla Mendoza was sentenced to a 24-year prison term by a Broward Circuit Judge after driving the wrong way on the Sawgrass Expressway, crashing head-on into another vehicle while intoxicated.
Mendoza, who was only twenty years old at the time of an accident which killed two other young women, had no plea deal in place, showed remorse and completely cooperated with the prosecution before and during her trial.
The two victims; Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Nicole Ferrante were also in their early twenties.
She confessed to the crime in court and pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI manslaughter after publicly apologizing to the victims' families during court proceedings.
The most damaging piece of evidence in the case was a tweet that Mendoza posted just before the accident occurred which read "2 drunk 2 care". She also wasn't old enough to legally consume alcohol and didn't have a valid driver's license. Her blood-alcohol level was measured at almost twice the state's legal limit.
Angry relatives of the girls who were killed in the crash that showed up at trial lobbied the Broward Circuit Judge to hand down the mandatory sentence which was thirty years. The judge was obviously influenced by the families' outrage and grief.
In another case with a Social Media connection, Karlie Tomica hit and killed South Beach chef Stefano Riccioletti who was crossing the street while she was driving her vehicle under the influence of alcohol. She fled the scene of the accident leaving the victim to die even as a witness tried to flag her down before her eventual arrest.
The social media component relates to her Twitter profile where she labeled herself a “party princess". To this day, the discussion of her conviction is still tweeted about on the popular Social Network.
But because the victim's family agreed to her plea deal with the prosecution, she was only given a sentence of four years in jail for her irresponsible actions contrary to the 24-year sentence imposed on Kayla Mendoza or the slap on the wrist given to Donté Stallworth.
The one common feature in each of the three above cases is that all of the defendants confessed to the allegations filed against them and relied on the Court to decide their fate.
If you or someone you care about is charged with DUI Manslaughter it is imperative to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney before a confession to a crime is offered.
The law office of Michael B. Cohen, Esq. is committed to fighting for all clients' rights who face allegations of DUI Manslaughter in the State of Florida. As a former Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, Mr. Cohen has a clear advantage for obtaining the best desired outcome refuting any charges alleged. Working for the prosecution prior to founding his criminal defense practice in the private sector has given him a superior advantage that will result beneficially for those who seek his help.
Mr. Cohen also previously worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the government handling federal cases for the prosecution.
Call him directly at any of the phone numbers listed above for a prompt response and free case evaluation. He will aggressively fight for your rights guaranteed under the Constitution and devote his abilities to assure the best result, challenging all charges alleged.
Nearly twenty years of outstanding private practice criminal defense in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and the Palm Beaches as well as all neighboring counties in the surrounding areas of South Florida.
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