One Killed, Dozens Injured, In Accident Between Bus and Drunk Driver

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

In the early morning hours of April 18, a bus carrying nearly three dozen members of the Florida High School track team was traveling from a meet in Jacksonville when tragedy happened.  A Toyota Corolla, driven by Sarah Walker of Tallahassee, turned in to the bus, causing the bus to lose control and hit a light poll.  As a result of the accident, the driver, 65-year-old William Fowler, died from his injuries.  Others on the bus were injured, but none seriously.  Walker was arrested at the scene for DUI and was later bonded out, but it does not appear that she has been charged with DUI manslaughter for her alleged roll in Fowler’s death at this time.

Even though Walker has not been charged with DUI manslaughter, it does not mean that such as charge is not coming.  It is quite common for law enforcement to do an especially thorough investigation into some DUI crimes, especially those that involve a death or severe injury.   This is similar to how police would handle many types of criminal charges such as assault, murder or fraud.  While police are allowed to arrest someone at the scene of a crime, and often do, they are not required to.

Many times, police will take more time to investigate a crime so that they can be sure that they have enough evidence to have a successful prosecution against the person.  In a DUI manslaughter case such as this one, this would mean having very complete blood alcohol testing of the suspected drunk driver along with gathering other evidence such as doing accident reconstruction, gathering any video of the accident and doing any skid mark or other analysis.  The point of doing this is that it makes it much more likely that the person who committed this crime will be found guilty and go to jail for it.

Prosecutors in a DUI manslaughter case have a three-year statute of limitations.  This means that they have three years from the date of the accident to file charges against the person who committed the crime.  There are statutes of limitations for every crime, which are dictated according to Florida law.  While some specific crimes, such as those for a capital or life felony, for example, have an unlimited amount of time for charges to be filed, other crimes have some time limitation.  DUI manslaughter, where the person stays at the scene of the accident, is a second-degree felony, meaning that there are three years from the date of the accident to file charges.

This does not mean that the prosecution will wait the entire three years.  In fact, they often will not since if there could be procedural issues if they do not.  But what it does mean is that the prosecution can take their time to properly prepare their case to make it stronger.