A Florida man was handed a life sentence on Feb. 27 for driving under the influence of drugs and causing an accident that claimed the life of a 71-year-old man and his 7-year-old and 9-year-old granddaughters. During a sentencing hearing that lasted approximately two hours, a Circuit Court judge heard testimony from the man’s mother and relatives of the victims. The man’s criminal defense attorney asked the judge to hand down a short custodial sentence followed by a long period of probation, but the judge did not find the arguments persuasive.
The deadly accident took place in November 2019 at the intersection of County Road 467 and County Road 484 in Marion County. According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, the man’s pickup truck ignored a stoplight before striking the side of a car in the intersection. Paramedics pronounced the man and two girls who had been traveling in the car dead at the scene.
FHP troopers obtained a search warrant to draw the man’s blood after he failed a standardized field sobriety test. He was charged with DUI after toxicology tests revealed that he had methamphetamine and two other drugs in his system at the time of the crash. The man’s sentencing hearing was scheduled after he entered a no contest plea in November 2022.
This case shows how harsh the penalties for driving under the influence can be in Florida when accidents occur and lives are lost. Factors that likely influenced the judge include the ages of the victims, the traffic violations the man committed before crashing and testimony revealing that one of his passengers had offered to drive his pickup truck. The judge may have also been swayed by the FHP accident report that stated the man showed no signs of remorse at the scene.