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Homestead man pleads guilty to dui manslaughter charges

Posted on February 21, 2011 3:00 AM EST

A local man entered a guilty plea in circuit court to three counts of DUI manslaughter. DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable up to fifteen years in prison. He was also arrested and charged with one count of battery on a firefighter which is a third degree felony punishable up to five years in prison. Although the defendant entered a guilty plea last week, his sentencing hearing was put off until April 28, when Circuit Court Judge Rosa Rodriguez will determine his fate. The defendant appeared remorseful when he entered the guilty plea with the assistance of his Miami criminal defense lawyer.

On January 25, 2009, the defendant was barreling down US1 after a night of drinking and crashed into the rear of a Ford minivan killing three children ages, 10, 7 and 4. According to police reports, his blood alcohol level was more than 3 times the legal limit. To make matters worse, the defendant was charged with battery of a firefighter for fighting with a rescue worker who tried to extricate him from his vehicle. Although arrested at the same time for the DUIs, the defendant did not enter a plea into the felony battery charge as the charging documents were never consolidated. It is not clear why the charges were never consolidated since the offenses occurred at the same time. Depending on the sentence handed down by the judge, the state may dismiss the battery charge.

The case is unusual because the defendant entered a guilty plea without the protection of an agreement with the state. In the large majority of cases in Miami-Dade County, defendants enter guilty pleas with set sentences agreed to by both the defendant and the prosecution. The defendant in this case pled up to the court which means the judge can sentence him anywhere within the sentencing guidelines or even below the guidelines if the defense attorneys convince the judge that a downward departure is appropriate. While it is rare to plead up to the court without a plea agreement, defendants are sometimes forced into this position when there is overwhelming evidence and the prosecution is unwilling to extend a plea offer.

As in many cases, prosecutors are unwilling to extend plea offers on sensitive cases that garner a lot of media attention. This case has been in the media for several reasons. Obviously, the death of three children caught the attention of the media. Moreover, the defendants driving record was horrible with 29 citations over the past 8 years. To make matters worse, the defendant had a prior DUI conviction. Many wondered after all of the citations, how could it be that the defendant still had a valid driver's license. Another issue in the case was a dispute between the lawyer representing the parents of the deceased children and the lawyer representing the defendant. The criminal lawyer accused the civil lawyer of attempting to get the defendant to lie about the whereabouts of his drinking. In the end, enough evidence could not be gathered and the lawyer was never charged. Unfortunately, the lack of defense and media sensitive nature of the case did not allow any options for the defendant.

Homestead Man Pleads Guilty in DUI Crash that Killed Three Children, Miami Herald.com, February 16, 2011.
Categories: DUI