The sudden death of a loved one from an impaired driver confounds an already emotionally complicated process. Raw emotions took center stage after a judge agreed to sentence a woman to four years in prison for operating a motor vehicle in 2018 while intoxicated that caused the death of four black women.
Prolonged investigation established terms
On April 18, 2018, four mothers rode home in a Chevy Malibu after leaving a restaurant at around 2 a.m. The driver made a left turn onto State Road 50, whereupon Heather Finley, driving a Silverado, struck them. An affidavit stated Finley had been traveling 59 mph in a zone with a speed limit of 35 mph. Finley volunteered for a blood alcohol test, but only five hours after the crash.
Circuit Judge Larry Metz postponed hearings in April to hear from the victims’ families. Recent information from a presentence investigation helped establish a plea deal. The deal dropped four separate charges for driving under the influence (DUI) yet kept four vehicular homicide charges in place. Other terms included license revocation for three years, restitution, and six years of probation. Questions had arisen concerning the extent of Finley’s impairment. Unable to alter the terms of the deal, Metz accepted the deal as the only way to guarantee Finley served time in jail.
Penalties for DUI under state law
The terms of Finley’s plea deal reflect the punishments for drunk driving under Florida law. The vehicular homicide statute addresses this type of incident directly. The “Implied Consent Law” requires compliance with any requests to take a blood, urine or breath test. Refusal results in an immediate one-year suspension of a driver’s license. A blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater for a first offense can result in punishments ranging from fines and community service to imprisonment.
The legal determination of DUI affects, at minimum, the alleged violator. At worst, families bury blood relatives and friends. The law requires specific evidence for a conviction of DUI and impaired driving. An attorney who understands the requirements can provide guidance.