Man Charged in Strange DUI Related Death of Wife

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

On March 9, 2014, a Loxahatchee, FL couple was driving over 55 MPH on a 30 MPH dirt road near their home when they drove past three warning signs that the road was ending and didn’t break as their car was vaulted in to a canal.  The driver, 30-year-old Matthew Notebaert, was seriously injured in the accident.  His wife, 31-year-old Amanda Notebaert, was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene.  In a report recently given to the media by police, it was stated that the couple were both naked from the waist down and Mrs. Notebaert was in Mr. Notebaert’s lap, with some media reports alleging that the couple was having sex at the time of the accident.  Matthew Notebaert was overheard at the scene of the crash stating that he was distracted and killed his wife.  Test showed that he had a blood alcohol content well above the legal limit and that there was marijuana in his system.  Notebaert has been arrested for DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide for the accident and is currently out on bail.

Often times in cases, prosecutors will file two charges that look very similar to one another.  An example of this is Notebaert’s case, where he has been charged with DUI manslaughter along with vehicular homicide for the death of his wife.  The intention behind doing this isn’t to have him actually be convicted of both of these crimes, as he would only be able to be punished for one of these things because of his constitutional rights. 

Rather, the reason that Notebaert is being charged with both is that he was doing a few things that all could result in a conviction alone and, through charging him with both crimes, the prosecution is trying to insure that they will get a conviction in the case.

DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony.  Vehicular homicide is also a second-degree felony in most cases.  However, what elements need to be met to convict someone of DUI manslaughter is different than the elements needed to convict someone of vehicular manslaughter.  For example, DUI manslaughter would involve driving while impaired (presumably with a BAC of .08, but not always) and killing someone as a result of that drinking and driving.  On the other hand, vehicular homicide is driving recklessly (defined as a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property) and killing someone as a result.  One of these crimes needs to have impairment by drugs or alcohol, the other needs reckless driving.  Someone can drive recklessly and be completely sober, and someone can be drunk without meeting the legal definition of driving recklessly.

There are two things which Notebaert was doing when his wife died, either one of which could lead to his conviction alone.  He had a BAC of .149 three hours after the crash, meaning he was impaired and driving.  He was also apparently driving while having sex with his wife, meaning that he obviously was not giving full attention to the road.  This is where the “insurance” comes in.  If for some reason prosecutors cannot get a DUI manslaughter conviction, such as if evidence of his being drunk is thrown out, they still have enough to show that he was reckless.  It can work the other way around also, the jury may find that it was just a coincidence that the couple had no clothes on from the waist down and that there was no reckless driving, but at the same time, they could find that Notebaert was impaired.  By charging him with both of these crimes, there is a much higher likelihood that he will be going to jail for at least one of them.