Police have charged an 81-year-old man in a crash that killed a woman on a motorcycle in downtown Boynton Beach. Richard James Sullivan was booked into Palm Beach County jail and released on his own recognizance hours later. He will face one count of DUI manslaughter. The woman was riding her motorcycle south on Federal Highway when Sullivan’s Cadillac SUV pulled out in front of her. She broadsided the SUV and was taken to the hospital where she died.
Sullivan and his passenger were not injured in the crash. Police reported that Sullivan smelled of alcohol and was swaying back and forth. They said his eyes were glassy and his speech was slurred.
Sullivan’s BAC was Below the Legal Limit
Sounds like they have him dead to rights, doesn’t it? They don’t. A breathalyzer administered three hours after the accident indicated that Sullivan had a BAC of .03, well below the legal limit. The police officer then did some complex math equations in his head and determined that Sullivan’s BAC must have .08 at the time of the crash, miraculously identical to the legal threshold for a DUI prosecution. Sullivan told police he had one cocktail at lunch. Sullivan insists he had a green arrow when he attempted to make the turn. The police have no way to prove that Sullivan was over the legal limit when the accident occurred. That means their case is dead in the water.
One caveat, however, is that police also requested a urine sample. The urine sample will be able to detect any drugs in his system that may have impaired his driving at the time of the crash. If it turns out that Sullivan had illegal drugs in his system at the time of the crash, then he will still face charges for DUI manslaughter, but that is a major if.
The issue is that when police find people at accident scenes, their tendency is not to behave normally. They just experienced a major shock and saw their life flash before their eyes. There may be someone else on the road that they feel responsible for harming. Administering roadside sobriety tests thus doesn’t produce valid results (not that they ever produce valid results).
DUI Manslaughter Charges
If drugs do turn up in Sullivan’s system, he will face charges of DUI Manslaughter for which there is a minimum penalty of four years. Sentencing guidelines typically require a greater than a ten-year sentence for DUI manslaughter, but the courts may impose a “downward departure” sentence in the event that there are no aggravating factors. The maximum sentence for DUI manslaughter is nearly 15 years.
But unless the police can find evidence that Sullivan either a) drove recklessly or b) had something in his system (other than .03 alcohol) that could impair his driving. Otherwise, there is no case.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing DUI charges, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more about how we can protect your future from bad prosecutions.