Last week in Palm Beach Circuit Court, a 28-year-old man was sentenced to 33 years in prison for a March 2008 wrong-way DUI manslaughter that killed three people.
At the sentencing, the State Attorney showed video footage of the accused playing beer pong at a local bar just three weeks before the sentencing. The State argued that such footage showed that the accused lacked remorse.
The accused's criminal defense attorney had hoped for a four to eight-year sentence, relying on the fact that the accused had no prior criminal record and planning to come into the sentencing Friday with a strong case showing that the accused as truly sorry for causing the series of wrecks along Interstate 95.
But the defense learned on Wednesday of the beer pong video, captured by private investigators.
Florida State troopers arrested the accused shortly after the March 2008 morning he drove his black Pontiac GTO south on northbound Interstate 95, causing a series of crashes, including one in which a Delray Beach police officer broke his ankle.
The Judge said that had the accused been truly remorseful, he would not have continued drinking. The Judge cited the video footage of the accused drinking as signs he didn't deserve a lighter sentence.
It is unclear whether this sentence was the result of a guilty verdict or an open plea to the Court. It appears that it was the result of an open plea, meaning that the accused pleaded guilty in front of the Judge and hoped that the Judge would find mitigating circumstances which would justify a lesser sentence than the maximum.
The statutory maximum for three counts of DUI manslaughter is 45 years. DUI manslaughter, in Florida, carries a 4 year mandatory minimum sentence.
It is unfortunate that this open plea resulted in a much higher sentence than anticipated. However, a Judge will look for reasons to depart downward from the recommended sentencing guidelines. Remorse of the accused is a mitigating factor.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward. Call today to discuss your case.