FL Driver Faced Manslaughter Charges for Death of Good Samaritan

Today's post will examine a very interesting DWI-related story out of Florida, where jurors were recently called upon to determine whether a drunk driver should be found guilty of manslaughter charges for the death of a good Samaritan who stopped at the accident scene.

The Incident

On October 28, 2007, at roughly three in the morning, James Braley, 39, was driving on a Tampa highway when he rear-ended a jeep. At the time of the collision, Braley's blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.219, well over the legal limit in Florida.

Shortly thereafter, Amir Sarhaddi, 29, passed the accident scene and pulled over to lend his assistance. Unfortunately, he was struck and killed by a second drunk driver, who was eventually sentenced to five years in prison for DUI manslaughter.

(Please note, in the state of Texas, all defendants are charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), not Driving Under the Influence (DUI). However, today's post will use the term "DUI" when discussing Florida law.)

Interestingly, the state of Florida eventually chose to charge Braley with DUI manslaughter, which meant that they had to prove to a jury that his actions contributed to Sarhaddi's death.

To that end, prosecutors asserted that Braley's drunk driving not only caused the initial accident, but also caused Sarhaddi to exit his vehicle.

Braley's defense attorneys countered with the argument that Sarhaddi made the decision on his own to pull over and leave the safety of his vehicle.

In the state of Florida, a conviction for DUI manslaughter can result in up to 15 years in prison.

The Verdict

Last week, jurors found Braley not guilty of DUI manslaughter after roughly three hours of deliberation. However, he was still convicted on the lesser charges of DUI and DUI with property damage.

"Mr. Braley never struck Mr. Sarhaddi (with his car)," said one juror. "And Mr. Braley didn't coax him out of his car or ask for help."

Braley's attorney expressed satisfaction with the verdict.

"Was he intoxicated? Yes," he said. "Did the facts show he was responsible for that man's death? No."

Stay tuned for further developments from our Dallas criminal defense blog ...

Please remember, if you are arrested for DWI and are thinking about trying to save money by using a public defender or handling the matter yourself, you may want to reconsider. An experienced DWI defense attorney will know the best way to handle your ALR hearing to protect your driver's license, as well as the strategies that the police and prosecutors are likely to use in their case. By having your own attorney at your side throughout the process, you will be protected from saying or doing anything that will be used against you in court.

Related Resources:

Tampa Driver Guilty of DUI but not DUI Manslaughter (The St. Petersburg Times)

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