DUI Manslaughter charges

Post: DUI Manslaughter Charges in Tragic Farmworker Crash That Left 8 Dead

First Court Appearance: No Bond for Driver

The driver accused of causing a bus crash that killed eight migrant farmworkers in Central Florida has been charged with eight counts of DUI Manslaughter. During this initial hearing, the judge reviewed the defendant’s charges and the circumstances of the incident, including the arrest report and breathalyzer results, which indicated a blood alcohol level significantly above the legal limit. The judge ordered the defendant to be held without bond, citing the severity of the charges.

Bus Crash Results in DUI Manslaughter Charges

Police say the defendant was behind the wheel of a 2001 Ford Ranger pickup truck that sideswiped a bus transporting farmworkers in the early morning hours. The Florida Highway Patrol reported that the collision occurred when the truck veered into the center line on State Road 40, outside Dunnellon, causing the bus to crash through a fence and into a tree before overturning. The bus, carrying workers to Cannon Farms for watermelon harvesting, ended up on its side, its windows shattered.

In addition to the eight victims who were killed in the bus crash, more than a dozen more were injured. They were taken to AdventHealth Ocala Hospital. Another 37 passengers on the bus were taken to local hospitals for observation or minor injury treatments.

Initial Court Appearance

During the court appearance, Assistant State Attorney Lillian Rozsa argued for withholding bail for the defendant, emphasizing his criminal history and the severity of the recent incident, citing multiple deaths and injuries. The prosecutor said that the defendant had been in another crash just days before the fatal accident, suggesting a pattern of reckless behavior.

The first hearing was conducted via video conference from the Marion County Jail, where the defendant is being held. County Judge LeAnn Mackey-Barnes presided over the session from the Marion County Judicial Center. During the hearing, the judge formally read the DUI manslaughter charges and appointed a public defender. Despite arguments from appointed counsel that the defendant would comply with court orders if released on bail, the judge sided with the prosecution’s request to deny bail and keep the defendant in custody pending trial.

Defendant’s Criminal Record

The court took into account the defendant’s extensive criminal record, which includes multiple traffic-related offenses and previous convictions for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of accidents. These past infractions played a critical role in the judge’s decision to deny bail, reflecting the legal system’s increasing stringency on repeat offenders in DUI cases. This background underscores the challenges faced by the defense in mitigating the severe consequences of DUI manslaughter charges.

DUI Manslaughter Charges

DUI Manslaughter in Florida is defined as causing the death of another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is a second-degree felony, with a mandatory minimum of four years in prison. The maximum sentence is 15 years in prison, plus 15 years of probation and a fine of up to $10,000. 

To convict someone of DUI Manslaughter charges, a prosecutor must prove that a driver:

  • Operated or had actual physical control of a vehicle.
  • Was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08, or was impaired by a chemical or controlled substance. 
  • Caused the death of another person or unborn child, either directly or indirectly.

The state vigorously prosecutes DUI manslaughter charges, so the defense must be very aggressive in order to ensure that prosecutors are not overstepping their authority in their zeal for a conviction. The Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Rivas Law Firm fight passionately to protect defendants’ rights. If you or a loved one is facing DUI manslaughter charges in Florida, call us at 407-644-2466 or contact us online.

Criminal defense attorney The Rivas Law Firm