The Palm Beach County state’s attorney declined to pursue charges against a man who was accused of vehicular homicide and reckless driving. According to the police, the man was driving across a stretch where golfers generally crossed in golf carts. An 82-year-old man and a 77-year-old man were in the golf cart when it was struck by a 2017 BMW. The 82-year-old died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident while the 77-year-old suffered serious bodily injury.
The police had hoped to get the state’s attorney to take the case, but the state attorney declined. Vehicular homicide is a serious criminal offense with a statutory minimum of nearly 10 years in state prison. In cases with extenuating circumstances, the judge can depart from the statutory minimum to assign a four-year sentence. The least amount of time someone could serve on a vehicular homicide conviction is four years.
The BMW was attempting to pass a car on the left that had begun to slow to allow golf carts to go by. Upon attempting to pass the vehicle, the BMW failed to account for the golf carts that were coming and broadsided one of them. The speed limit in the area is 35 mph. Police accused the driver of speeding to 48 and then to 69 in an attempt to pass the other car.
One of the men was pinned underneath the golf cart after it was struck. The other was thrown from the golf cart and pinned against the BMW. He later died of his injuries. The other driver was taken to the hospital with serious bodily injuries.
Why weren’t charges filed?
They could have made a reckless driving or vehicular homicide charge stick, but it wouldn’t have been easy. If the driver was poor with a court-appointed attorney, then maybe the state’s prospects of getting a conviction increase. In this case, the defendant would have claimed that his conduct did not rise to the standard of “gross negligence” or “recklessness” but it was simply ordinary negligence. The driver was going more than double the speed limit, according to police.
However, mere speeding is not enough to make a vehicular homicide charge stick. But, doing twice the posted speed limit is. So the prosecution could have easily made a strong argument against the defendant, but they chose not to because they weren’t completely sure they could get a conviction, or they didn’t feel strongly enough about the evidence to make their case. Would they have pursued charges against a defendant with a court-appointed attorney? That is distinctly possible. Prosecutors don’t like to lose cases, so they’re very protective of their win-loss records. In cases where the defendant is represented by a skilled criminal defense attorney, gray charges like vehicular homicide are less likely to succeed than the same charges filed against a defendant with a court-appointed attorney.
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