Pensacola drivers shoulder responsibility for the passengers who ride with them, but the duty of care also extends outward. Motor vehicle operators owe other drivers "reasonable" protection from harm. Negligence breaches that invisible contract.
Any amount of alcohol has an effect on human behavior. Florida and national laws have established that the tipping point for intoxication is when an adult's blood alcohol content level is 0.08 percent or higher. Not all drivers play by those rules.
Two men died in 2009 when a pickup truck left a Pasco County road and overturned. The vehicle struck a pole, instantly killing the truck owner who had let his friend drive that night. The three men had been drinking at a club.
A backseat passenger, another friend, was trapped in the rear seat and died.
Emergency crews had to extricate the 39-year-old male driver. The driver's BAC test registered above 0.12 percent, enough to bring DUI manslaughter charges against the defendant.
The driver also was charged with culpable negligence. Negligence is a term more often associated with civil claims but applies in criminal cases when authorities believe a defendant committed a grossly unsafe and insensitive act.
A November trial produced a fast guilty verdict, despite the defense's assertions that the driver of the truck was never established.
In mid-December, a judge sentenced the defendant to a 22-year prison term for the fatal truck accident. The judge told the man that despite the lengthy sentence, eventually he would be reunited with his family - an opportunity the victims would not have.
Accidents do not have to have fatal results to significantly change the finances, physical state or emotional stability of an injured victim. Even moderate injuries can cause chaos like enormous medical bills and family-threatening wage loss.
A reckless or negligent defendant can be held accountable for victims' personal and financial damages, including families of wrongful death victims.
Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Driver in DUI manslaughter that killed two in Hudson sentenced to 22 years" Jon Silman, Dec. 23, 2013