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A DUI manslaughter charge with a 0.00 BAC?

A Florida man was charged with DUI manslaughter, for the death of a pedestrian in an incident in Panama City Beach. He was originally charged with a misdemeanor DUI, but the charge was upgraded after the trooper spoke with prosecutors, according to a story in the Herald Tribune.

A spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol said that the driver was suspected of being "under the influence of controlled substances." They did not elaborate on what substance was suspected. While he was charged with DUI, he did not appear to be drunk and the trooper noted there was no smell of alcohol on his breath during the arrest.

However, he was falling asleep in the backseat of the patrol car, and his speech was "mumbled and confused." He also performed poorly when asked to execute the field sobriety tests. However, his breathalyzer test returned a 0.00 blood alcohol test (BAC), which if accurate, would indicate he had no alcohol in his system.

What this case demonstrates is that one can be charged with a DUI and have no alcohol in one's bloodstream. The statue is entitled "Driving under the influence" and is broader than merely alcohol impairment.

The statute also includes a list of drugs and controlled substances that can impair a driver. According to the police report, he refused the blood test because he was worried that it would show traces of marijuana he had smoked a few nights before the accident.

The blood test was performed because police are authorized to draw blood when there is a fatality at an accident scene.

Drug tests can be inconclusive, because traces of marijuana may show up long after the drug was used. If the driver was not impaired by drugs, but was instead exhausted because he had been awake for too many hours, he could potentially be found not guilty of the DUI manslaughter charge.

Source: The News Herald, "Suspect charged with DUI Manslaughter," Chris Olwell, January 22, 2013

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