Rise In Automobile Accidents Resulting In Homicide In Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County, FL has had a recent uptick of automobile crashes that have claimed the lives of area teenagers and young residents. Just recently, the Acreage, FL area had witnessed a horrible vehicular homicide, where a young person allegedly drove through a stop sign at the intersection of Tangerine Blvd. and 120th Avenue North, killing 18 year old Brittany Baxter. Additionally, authorities at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office are reporting that all occupants of a 2014 Nissan driven by, Brian Gregg, 21, of Royal Palm Beach, FL were severely injured and one deceased passenger. Mr. Gregg lost control of his car just north of Okeechobee and Crestwood Boulevards and drove off the roadway, striking a palm tree, ejecting most of the occupants and the deceased.
Florida law is very clear as to how it defines vehicular homicide. “Vehicular homicide” is the killing of a human being, or the killing of an unborn child by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.
(1) Vehicular homicide is:
(a) A felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(b) A felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, if:
- At the time of the accident, the person knew, or should have known, that the accident occurred; and
- The person failed to give information and render aid as required by s. 316.062.
This paragraph does not require that the person knew that the accident resulted in injury or death.
(2) For purposes of this section, the term “unborn child” has the same meaning as provided in s. 775.021(5).
(3) A right of action for civil damages shall exist under s. 768.19, under all circumstances, for all deaths described in this section.
(4) In addition to any other punishment, the court may order the person to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, under the supervision of a registered nurse, an emergency room physician, or an emergency medical technician pursuant to a voluntary community service program operated by the trauma center or hospital.
As Florida law demonstrates, the penalty for vehicular homicide is a felony of the second degree, punishable by up to 15 years in the Department of Corrections.
However, this penalty increases to a felony of the first degree, if the alleged driver who is responsible for the reckless driving that caused the death of the other person, does not stop and render aid and provide their information to the other driver or pedestrian involved in the accident.
What constitutes the degree of culpability required for vehicular homicide is less than that necessary to prove manslaughter, but it is more than a mere failure to use ordinary care. To prove the offense of Vehicular Homicide, the State necessarily must prove the elements of reckless driving, which itself requires proof of a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Willful for purpose of Vehicular homicide means intentional, knowing, and purposeful, and wanton means with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with knowledge that damage is likely to be done to persons or property.
In determining whether a defendant was driving recklessly, the essential inquiry is whether the defendant knowingly drove the vehicle in such a manner and under such conditions as was likely to cause death or great bodily harm.” See Santisteban at 72 So. 3d at pg. 195. If the evidence provided by the State through the crash investigation shows, that the driver’s actions were negligent and do not rise to the level of recklessness is insufficient to sustain the convictions for vehicular homicide.
If a driver has a valid prescription for a legal narcotic, prescription drugs, and caused an automobile crash that results in the death of a human being, then this act will not rise to the level of criminal Vehicular Homicide. If however, the driver is intoxicated from alcohol or illegal drugs and the crash results or evidence show speeding, erratic driving, or failure to obey traffic regulations like illegal passing or speeding, that results in the death of another human being, a conviction for Vehicular Homicide will be upheld. On the other hand, consumption of illegal drugs or alcohol by the driver responsible for causing the crash that takes the life of another human being without signs of impairment, will not sustain a conviction of Vehicular Homicide in the State of Florida.
If you or a loved one have been involved in an automobile crash that resulted in the death of another human being, it is in your best interest to contact West Palm Beach Criminal Traffic Attorney Andrew D. Stine at 561.880.4300. West Palm Beach Criminal Traffic Defense Lawyer, Andrew D. Stine, has been representing and protecting the rights of drivers involved in deadly for over a decade. Hire Stine or Do the Time.