Driving Distracted with Deadly Results: Florida's Vehicular Homicide Laws
Admittedly, Florida does not have the toughest laws when it comes to distracted driving. While some Florida legislators want to change that, texting or otherwise using an electronic device while driving is only a secondary offense. But that changes when distracted driving causes the death of another. In fact, that could land a driver in jail for vehicular homicide under Florida Statutes 782.071. Imagine all of the negative consequences that can result from the simple decision to drive distracted: you could get in a serious accident, pay for the damages, and even lose your life or cause another to lose theirs. Below is a look at Florida’s laws dealing with vehicular homicide.
Florida Law on Vehicular Homicide
Anytime a driver causes an accident that kills another and the driving was so reckless that it was likely to cause a deadly accident, that is vehicular homicide under Florida’s laws. That is the broad definition, and there are many driving habits that could contribute to a conviction of vehicular homicide. Some of those habits are quite common, including speeding, texting and driving, drinking and driving, and driving distracted.
Vehicular homicide is either a first or second degree felony under Florida law, and carries with it very stiff consequences, including long-term jail time. To be convicted there are several elements that must be proved:
It must be proved that the driver was driving recklessly, meaning that the driver showed a willful disregard of the safety of others.
It must be proved that the driver knew his or her driving was likely to cause serious harm or death to another.
As mentioned above, very common driving habits can lead to an accident, which can lead to the death of another. Below is an example of a case involving an instance of vehicular homicide.
Case Example of a Vehicular Homicide Conviction
It was a clear day with dry roads when the woman convicted of vehicular homicide in Hamilton v. State was driving home. She was driving in a residential area at 50 mph, too fast for the neighborhood. The woman was distracted for a moment by her kids in her car when she struck and killed two children playing in the street. The case was taken to trial and the jury convicted the woman of vehicular homicide.
On appeal the woman argued that speeding alone cannot support a conviction for vehicular homicide. And while that may be correct, the court recognized that there were many other factors that contributed to the conviction. For example, it was a clear dry day, and there were no reasons to be speeding. The children were hit in the middle of the road, but there was a sign posted that said “children at play,” and the woman drove distracted. After looking at the case on the whole, that was enough to uphold a conviction, and it leaves a lesson for the rest of us.
This case should be a lesson for each of us to drive safely, and avoid distractions. But unfortunately we are constantly hearing stories of how distracted driving causes major injuries and even death. Fortunately the law is on the side of victims of distracted driving. If you have are a victim of any kind of car accident in the Panama City area, contact us so we can review your case. At The Pittman Firm our practice is dedicated to fighting for victims of all kinds of accidents.