The Los Angeles Timesreports that NFL Star, Dante Stallworth, has been charged with a Manslaughter charge stemming from a March 14th accident that killed 59 year old Mario Reyes. This is the prototypical case that has formed organizations such as M.A.D.D. and caused anti-drunk driving bill boards to be put along side our roadways. This incident occurred in Florida, and if Stallworth is convicted he faces up to fifteen years in prison. The L.A. Times reports that Stallworth’s blood-alcohol level was a .126, which was obtained by a blood test.
These cases have a lot of issues. The fact that a person died immediately invokes sadness and anger. Yet, these cases are much more complicated than they appear at first glance.
The prosecutors must prove two complicated issues. First, the prosecutors must prove Dante Stallworth was Driving While Intoxicated. One may think this is a no-brainer becaues of the blood test. Skilled attorneys have successfully challenged blood test results on many different fronts. There are too many issues regarding a blood test to discuss in this blog, but I will say the results are not as hard of a fact as one may think. It is similar to taking a person’s temperature. I can think of three different methods to take a person’s temperature. If you did all three methods at once, you would likely get three different results.
The second issue is causation of the accident. Civil lawyers have been arguing since the invention of the automobile, “who entered the intersecton first?” Just because Stallworth may have been intoxicated does not mean the accident was caused by him or the intoxication. The classic example is suppose a Drunk Driver is sitting is stopped at a red light. Then, another driver falls asleep and crashes into the Drunk Driver and the Sleepy driver dies. Drunk Driver may get a DWI, but he would not be guilty of Intoxication Manslaughter. Now that is an over-exaggerated example. Typically, the cause or fault of the accident may be impossible to determine because one party is deceased and the other party is not talking.
There is no question that all drivers get into accident without alcohol being an issue. The question for Mr. Stallworth will be “was his alleged intoxication the cause of this accident?” Meaning if he had not been over the legal limit, “would the accident not have occurred.”
We will wait and see!