Two years ago, a Florida man ran a red light at about 80 miles per hour, slamming into another car. The wreck resulted in the deaths of a 51 year old man and his three sons. The Florida driver survived, and pled guilty to four counts of DUI manslaughter this month. He also pleaded guilty for one count of driving under the influence with serious bodily injury, and faces up to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for July 20th.
The man, who had been smoking marijuana and drinking Four Loko (an alcoholic drink containing caffeine) was driving under the influence of the drugs and alcohol when he ran the red light caused the deaths of the four men. The driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) was .0154 – almost twice the legal limit, which is .08%.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more than 10,000 people die in drunk driving accidents every year, and most drivers are not caught driving drunk the first 80 times they drive under the influence. Shockingly, more than half of drivers who are arrested for DUI continue to drive after their license has been suspended or revoked.
Although many drunk driving allegations are charged as misdemeanors, more serious offenses are charged as felonies. There are a variety of situations that may result in a felony DUI charge instead of a misdemeanor. In the case of this accident, multiple people were killed. When a drunk driver causes and accident and injuries someone else, their charges may be elevated from misdemeanor to felony.
The presence of children in the vehicle may alter the seriousness of the charges as well. For instance, if an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol while their child is in the back seat of the car, their crime will be charged more severely than if the child had been absent. In many states, a "child" is anyone under the age of 16. Previous offenses may affect the court's decision to charge a driver with felony DUI as well. In fact, many states implement some form of a "three strikes law" that requires the state to height charges or penalties when offenders repeatedly committee the same crime.
The amount of alcohol in the diver's system may influence the seriousness of their charges as well. For instance, if the driver is caught with a BAC of .08%, which is the lowest amount of alcohol that an adult can be arrest for, they will most likely be charged with a misdemeanor DUI. However, like the driver who caused four deaths because he was drinking, drivers whose BAC is significantly above the legal limit (usually around twice the limit),may be charged with a felony DUI.